I grew up in the 1960s in Goodland, Kan., population 5,000, and downtown was booming. However, the downtown is now dying. Most stores are empty. Instead there is just a Super Wal-Mart on the edge of town.
The first year it opened both grocery stores closed, leaving Wal-Mart as the only place to buy groceries. Then Main Street started collapsing. Over time they lost the hardware store, a bakery, a pharmacy/gift shop, the fabric shop, a dime store – the list goes on and on. Now there is no reason to go downtown and people don’t gather there any more. The community is slowly being sucked dry. The population is down to 4,000 and the real estate market is flooded with houses for sale as people move away because there are no jobs. Forget trying to start a small business there. Who can compete with Wal-Mart?
Wal-Mart likes to talk about the benefits they bring to Goodland, like taxes. Sure they pay taxes, but then, so did Goodland’s old businesses. And paying taxes is not a charitable act, it’s the law. Also, they talk about helping the employment situation. Sure, they employ a few folks from the community, mostly part time and minimum wage with no benefits.
Wal-Mart talks about the business they attract to Goodland but since the local businesses no longer exist, Wal-Mart gets it all. And those low smiley-face prices they initially offered (thus killing the competition) started climbing until the bargains aren’t there anymore. And the profits don’t stay in Goodland, they go to Arkansas.
Wal-Mart will destroy Stanwood like it did Goodland, if we let it. The company doesn’t care about our community, only about profits. And its only contributions to our community will be negative – to shut down businesses, rob Stanwood of its downtown and character, and turn us into a bunch of strangers living in Wal-Martville.