Letters Say no to Wal-Mart

To the editor:

I am disappointed that the city of Vermillion is considering doing business with Wal-Mart. This corporation, seemingly intent on taking over the planet, expands its empire at the expense of local businesses.

With Wal-Marts in Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Yankton, the rationale for locating a store in Vermillion could only be to drive their competition in this area completely out of business. While some argue that money spent elsewhere would then return to Vermillion, thereby supposedly increasing sales tax revenues for the city and schools, I think the loss of revenues from other businesses and the death of yet another Midwest downtown portends a darker picture than that painted by Wal-Mart's heady, slick rhetoric.

I recently perused a book I wish everyone in Vermillion would consider, especially those the citizens of Vermillion have charged with developing plans for expansion. Its title is How Wal-Mart is Destroying America (And the World). The author, Bill Quinn, is a feisty senior citizen from Texas who lists seven things that he believes will occur if Wal-Mart comes to a town.

1. Store owners take the biggest hit as anyone in competition with any aspect of Wal-Mart's goods and services will be eventually driven out of business by the practice of "predatory pricing." Wal-Mart shops other stores for prices, lowers its price temporarily below market value, and is then in a position to eventually charge any cost when other stores go out of business.

2. Jobs are lost. Quinn suggests this is because Wal-Mart employs from 65 to 70 people for each $10 million in sales while small businesses employ 106 people for each $10 million in sales. Bigger can obviously pay less in salary and benefits. Also, as Wal-Mart is selling merchandise already available in a town or city, it doesn't really create jobs as a new manufacturer would.

3. Other businesses not directly associated with Wal-Mart's merchandise also suffer, notably newspapers because of the paucity of Wal-Mart's advertising, particularly after other stores have gone out of business. While Wal-Mart may say it spreads the wealth throughout the town, what it is really doing is quickly taking the wealth in its store banks out of town, directly to the home offices in Bentonville, AR.

4. Downtown dies as Wal-Mart builds on land away from a town's established business center. It is there to "stomp the comp" and not be a partner to the town's other merchants.

5. Taxpayers ultimately pay for the real estate tax breaks, and sewer, water, and electricity discount Wal-Mart often expects for its "benign" presence.

6. Other towns suffer. The sales area of a Wal-Mart is about 70 miles in diameter, so a number of small towns will lose commerce to a nearby Wal-Mart.

7. Wal-Mart moves on. After striping the town of local businesses, Wal-Mart leaves if its revenues are not sufficient or even if the town has supported them, "consolidation" elsewhere is used to justify their exit.

Quinn's introductory chapters serve as a prelude to the rest of his remarks on Wal-Mart's unsavory business practices and legal machinations in the thousands of lawsuits brought by disenchanted contractors, suppliers, and employees. I suppose many will say that those who oppose the presence of Wal-Mart in Vermillion are alarmists, but I hope sufficient time will be taken for sustained citizen input into this issue before a final decision is made.

Wal-Mart may think its company is a sign of the "bigger is better" in the area of free enterprise, but I think it's just really free greed. Wal-Mart and the concept of integrity don't seem to be a good match.

Finally, as Wal-Mart is notoriously anti-union, more so than many large corporations, and I spent a great portion of my teaching career as a union negotiator, I have never enlightened the door of any of its stores. After my retirement from teaching in Wisconsin and my return to our family's farm acreage, I decided I would continue my practice of trying to shop in local areas.

I basically spend my money in Vermillion, Beresford, and Akron and receive from the merchants there quality products and services. As I believe it is their responsibility to sink roots into the community and thrive in an atmosphere of reasonable profits, I believe it is my responsibility to assist their continued presence. Sentiment and loyalty cost a bit more, but small towns will only survive if we support the local economy and seek economic expansion that will not penalize existing businesses.

The likes of Wal-Mart may seem favorable options for economic growth, but deserted businesses and dust in the street could be a more disheartening reality. Therefore, I believe Vermillion would be wiser to just say � No!

Liz Merrigan,


Goodbye, charm

To the editor:

So, it looks like Wal-Mart is coming to town. Can you hear it? The rumbling of bulldozers and pounding of hammers? Actually, it's the sound of big business chipping away at the small town charm that is Vermillion, South Dakota.

Obviously, there are pros and cons. Some people will talk about all the money in tax dollars Wal-Mart will bring. Let's not forget the local businesses that will lose money and the ones that will have to go out of business.

That is the reality of a national retail giant setting up shop in smaller communities.

To me, Vermillion has always been about the small town atmosphere, a Mayberry, if you will. A community that is an escape from the beaten path of everyday city life.

A place of great "mom and pop" stores and restaurants that is unique to any other town with the same stores everywhere you turn.

So who am I? I don't live in Vermillion. I don't even live in South Dakota. I live 440 miles away in Rockford, IL.

For over 30 years I have been coming to Vermillion to visit relatives and this town has always had a special place in my heart for many reasons. One reason being Vermillion has the historic look of yesteryear without the sanitary, cookie-cutter, box stores popping up all over.

But say goodbye to the charm of Vermillion with the addition of Wal-Mart and other national chain stores and restaurants that may follow it here. Vermillion will soon look like any other town you see across the country.

Travelers can just follow the signs to Wal-Mart, get what they need, and bypass the heart and soul of Vermillion and its historic downtown.

John Drissen

Rockford, IL

Schedule appointments at Vermillion city hall

To the editor:

The public is invited to schedule appointments with the mayor or city manager at city hall in Vermillion during open office hours on the second Monday of each month.

Jim Patrick and I will each be available individually from 4 to 6 p.m. on July 12, Aug. 9, Sept. 13, etc. for 15-minute listening appointments with citizens. Please schedule your appointment through Joanne Tolsma at 677-7050. If more discussion is needed, we will do follow up appointments at a mutually agreed time.

We will be happy to meet with residents at any other time on an "as available" basis, but hope that this block of time set aside for open office hours will be used by citizens to meet with either of us on any topic. We can best represent you when we know what we can do to better serve you as members of the public.

Thank you.

Dan Christopherson, mayor


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