You've watched Mr. Happy Face shooting down the prices on an incredible range of consumer goods. You've heard about union-busting, unseemly employment practices, and offshore sweatshops. What then might a Wal-Mart might do for and to your local economy? How do you find out? Could your local decision have national and international implications? Maggie Paquet explains how to come to grips with a tough issue.
"The news media and internet are rife with commentary and analysis about Wal-Mart. It's difficult to sift through all the hype and opinion-on-line or off-line-to get at something that approximates the truth. Are there ways for citizens- including CED practitioners-to make Wal-Mart work for their community? Possibly. But you have to know what your community has that Wal-Mart wants, and what they can offer that may be of value to you. If your town doesn't have the knowledge, skill, or guts to drive a bargain with Wal-Mart on this basis, then it will lose much more from the relationship than it will gain."
"Social systems require a good deal of diversity to maintain stability. By driving business away from towns or even out of the country, Wal-Mart reduces diversity. What partnerships will your town need to develop with local educational and financial institutions, unions, local governments, and other agencies in order to provide the diversity needed? Look for models that will create the full range of benefits that you are after-local jobs, local reinvestment of profits, and affordable consumer goods."