Clubs Rotarians hear Wal-Mart spokesman

The Vermillion Rotarians with president Kent Scribner presiding met for our weekly lunch Tuesday at the Neuharth Center. Guests today were Jim Abbott, Ralph Brown, and Dwayne Thompson � the latter a traveling Rotarian making his way up the Lewis Clark Trail � as well as VHS seniors, Laura Aga, Jordan Anderson and Sarah Anderson. Our program today brought us face to face with a representative of the largest corporation and largest employer in the world. Merle Miller, an attorney in Yankton and presently serving as a corporate attorney for Wal-Mart, told us of some of the plans that have been developed for the building of a Wal-Mart store right here in Vermillion. Some of those corn and bean fields on the north side of town may soon yield to what would become the largest store in town. Though the building may be painted green and tan (rather that the more standard blue and gray of most Wal-Mart stores) and some landscaping (with trees) may shade some of its walls, the planned store would be similar to those in the region that we have all seen and, no doubt, done some shopping in. Though not as large as the Wal-Mart in, say Sioux Falls, the store planned for here would not be so much smaller. At 155,000 square feet, one third devoted to groceries, it would certainly change the way most of us do our shopping. Two of the stronger arguments for bringing in such a store concern local tax revenues and "leakage." The annual property tax on the operation might come in at about $200,000 and Vermillion's share of the sales tax could bring in $800,000. (Both figures are estimates of initial revenues that would presumably go up over the years.) But would that new revenue be going up while older revenue sources went down just as much? That's where "leakage" comes into the picture. Though a Wal-Mart would certainly bring some competition for some already existing businesses in Vermillion, it was plausibly argued that most of the business (and, therefore, local tax revenues) would come from purchases by Vermillionites who currently take much of their business out of town (including some buying done at Wal-Marts in Sioux Falls, Sioux City, and Yankton). Studies suggest that residents of Vermillion presently spend approximately 70 percent of their purchases out of town and that the location here of a Wal-Mart might reduce that outside spending by about half. So there, Sioux Falls! In addition to diverting more of our necessary and unnecessary spending into local government tax revenues, the Wal-Mart store planned for here would be expected to hire around 350 employees (parttime workers included). Miller noted that Forbes, the well-known business magazine, gives Wal-Mart a very high rating as an employer. But then Forbes, self-proclaimed "Capitalist Tool," may be coming at this issue from a special perspective. As might some USD or VHS students looking for a temporary income. Meanwhile most Rotarians didn't seem to be particularly worried about what income they would derive from a job at Wal-Mart.

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