Wal-Mart expands in area with three new supercentersWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As Wal-Mart opens three newly renovated stores into supercenters in the Toledo area, the retailer is also looking for a location on the north side of the city, possibly the former Northtowne Mall site, for another hypermarket.
Wal-Mart will hold grand openings for the newly converted supercenters on West Central Avenue and Glendale Avenue in November. The supercenter on Navarre Avenue in Oregon celebrated its grand opening Oct. 17.
The opening of the three supercenters will create an additional 150 jobs per store. Each supercenter employs about 350 people, so Wal-Mart has about 1,100 employees in the Toledo area that includes the store at Spring Meadows in Holland, said Dan Moore, marketing manager for Wal-Mart’s Northwest Ohio market.
Wal-Mart will open another supercenter on U.S. 25 in Perrysburg during the first quarter of 2008. The company currently operates 10 locations in its Northwest Ohio market, including stores in Bowling Green, Bryan, Fremont, Napoleon and Wauseon.
Moore said Wal-Mart is looking for the right location for another supercenter on the north side of Toledo after it was unable to secure a desired site in Bedford, Mich. Moore said a northern location could be open in 2010 or 2011.
There are reports Wal-Mart may be interested in the vacant Northtowne Mall site. Ron Mosby, senior manager for public affairs in Ohio for Wal-Mart, would not confirm the company’s interest in any specific site.
“We look at every reasonable opportunity to grow on sites that would be easy for our customers,” Mosby said. He declined to comment on whether the Northtowne site meets the company’s needs.
At this time, Wal-Mart has made no formal applications or requests with the City of Toledo regarding a site in North Toledo, according to both city council and the mayor’s office.
“We will favor any new development in that area that will attract not only shoppers from the immediate vicinity, but will bring in money from Northwest Ohio and Michigan residents, as well,” Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said.
‘We can do better’
Outgoing City Councilman Joe Birmingham, who represents District 6 where the Northtowne site is located, said he recently met with Mosby and other Wal-Mart officials encouraging them to consider Northtowne for a new supercenter.
“I hope that would be a site they would be interested in. If Wal-Mart can take that vacant site and bring business to that area, I’m all for it,” said Birmingham, who was defeated in the primary election.
Lindsay Webb, the Democratic candidate for Birmingham’s seat, is still undecided on her position of a possible Wal-Mart supercenter on the Northtowne site.
“I will vote the conscience of my community,” Webb said.
Webb said she does not support or shop at Wal-Mart. She is a member of the UAW, an employment law specialist and advocate for displaced workers.
“I believe that we can do better than Wal-Mart,” said Webb, noting one of her constituents suggested that The Andersons would be a good retail fit at the Northtowne site.
The Andersons currently is focusing on further developing its specialty food store in Sylvania. A company official said the company will evaluate opportunities for new locations in the market, but did not comment specifically about the Northtowne site.
Webb said she has received phone calls and e-mails with feedback about the subject, but would not comment on their content. She plans to hold at least four public meetings in District 6 to discuss the possible redevelopment of Northtowne and other topics with her constituents.
David Ball, the Green Party candidate for the District 6 seat, also thinks the area can do better than Wal-Mart or another retail store. As the largest Fortune 500 company in the world, Wal-Mart hires mostly part-time employees and doesn’t offer health care to them, he said.
“We’re focusing on retail and malls when we need to do something to bring in jobs that will invest in the technologies of the future, such as computers, wind and solar energy, to keep more of our students from moving out of Toledo and Northwest Ohio,” Ball said.
Wal-Mart’s decision could depend on the rezoning of the Northtowne site. Lakeside Center, which owns the 75-acre site, had it rezoned for light industrial to meet its original redevelopment plan for the parcel. The site would need to be rezoned for commercial-retail to allow Wal-Mart to build a new supercenter on it.
Wal-Mart’s supercenters compete with Meijer, which operates stores that also offer food and general merchandise in Maumee, Oregon, Sylvania and Toledo. The Meijer store located on Alexis Road is about one mile east of the Northtowne site.
“The competition Wal-Mart creates among retailers benefits people whether they shop at Wal-Mart or not,” said Mia Masten, director of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart’s Midwest region. “At the end of the day, the consumer wins by paying less for what they buy.”
Wal-Mart not only has a significant presence in the Toledo area, but across Ohio. The company employs more than 51,950 people in the state.
The retailer has paid more than $82.4 million in state and local taxes in Ohio and collected more than $410 million in state sales taxes during its 2007 fiscal year.
However, Wal-Mart also has sought to minimize its payment of property taxes by filing more than 2,100 assessment challenges on properties where its stores and warehouses are located.
Based on a national sample of Wal-Mart stores and distribution centers, the company has filed challenges at more than one-third of its locations in the United States, according to Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center in Washington, D.C.
Wal-Mart has filed one challenge in Lucas County asking for a reduction in the assessed value of its store in Oregon from the current market value of $10.5 million to $7 million in 2006. No decision or recommendation has been made on the company’s request.
It is not uncommon for large companies to file an “informal,” a request for challenging the assessed values of commercial property, according to the Lucas County Auditor’s Office. An auditor considers the construction costs, expenses, income and value of other comparable properties and makes a recommendation.
If the company doesn’t agree with the reassessed value, it can appeal to the board of revisions in the auditor’s office. The board would render a decision within 60 to 90 days. That ruling can be appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals or Court of Common Pleas.
After Wal-Mart completed the conversion of its store in Bowling Green to a supercenter, the company filed for a reassessment on the site of the original store that is now a parking lot. Currently, the assessed value for that supercenter is $11.1 million, according to the Wood County Auditor’s Office.
Good Jobs First reported that Wal-Mart loses more assessment challenges than it wins despite its enormous legal resources. The report also showed that Wal-Mart receives more than $1.2 billion in property tax abatements, income tax credits and sales tax diversions as economic development subsidies where it builds or expands stores.
In fiscal year 2006, Wal-Mart reported it spent nearly $14 billion on merchandise and services from 2,195 suppliers in Ohio. Wal-Mart stores and Sam’s Club locations gave $7.4 million in cash and in-kind donations statewide in 2006.
Wal-Mart contributed a total of $25,000 to 10 different organizations in the community with the grand opening in Oregon. Moore said it would contribute similar amounts with the grand openings in November. The company is restoring a soccer field and park near the Glendale store that will be completed next spring at a cost of $56,000, Moore said.
At the same time, the retailer claims to have saved customers in Ohio an average of $2,515 per family by shopping at 141 Wal-Mart stores and 30 Sam’s Clubs in 2006.
Wal-Mart recently lowered the price of more than 100 generic prescriptions to $4 each, providing access to drugs for 90 percent of all therapeutic categories. The company claims it has saved customers $350 million since it launched the prescription program.
New research conducted for Wal-Mart by Global Insight, an independent research firm, shows the retailer saves American families an average of $2,500 each year. That number reflects a 7.3 percent increase from $2,329 in 2004, according to the research.
Global Insight updated its original financial analysis of Wal-Mart’s national and local impacts in terms of jobs, wages, prices and consumer buying power conducted in 2005.
The updated study confirmed the continued reduction in prices due to the presence of Wal-Mart, and growth in consumer spending from 2004 to 2006 translated directly into savings for consumers of $287 billion in 2006. That total represents savings of $957 per person or $2,500 per U.S. household.
The retailer is tracking the savings so far this year by installing a “savings ticker” outside Wal-Mart’s home office in Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart claims it has issued 20 percent more price rollbacks in 2007 than last year.