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Patch Blog: Walmart and Attracting New Business to Altadena

Walmart, jobs, and attracting new business to Altadena.

At a time when many Altadena residents are unemployed, there are vacant storefronts, and businesses are afraid to expand; there are two groups in Altadena fighting to stop new business here. The first group presented the Altadena Town Council a proposed moratorium asking the County to ban chain retailers over 15,000 square feet. This was a thinly veiled attempt to stop a Walmart grocery store from filling a long vacant building in town. A second group is now trying to stop Walmart, while claiming to want to do something about the very same vacant, blighted buildings that Walmart is providing a solution for.
 
Asking the county to institute new rules making it harder for retailers to open in the current economy is misguided.

Seeking to stimulate business growth in Altadena while opposing the Walmart Neighborhood Market is disingenuous.
 
Those advocating for the moratorium opposing Walmart, while advocating for new businesses, are missing basic facts about the positive impact large companies have on small businesses and the community as a whole. 
 
First, when large companies enter a market, they help stimulate local business growth by utilizing nearby suppliers and vendors who are called upon to fill the demand of such stores.  According to its website, in fiscal year 2012, Walmart purchased well over $25 billion in merchandise and services from thousands of suppliers both large and small in the state of California alone.  In turn, those suppliers were responsible for employing over 281,000 workers.
 
Second, retailers being targeted by the moratorium, like Walmart, create jobs. Unemployment in Los Angeles County is above 10 percent – well over the national average. The Walmart grocery store planned for Altadena will bring much-needed jobs to our community.
 
Third, contrary to what the anti-Walmart propaganda says, studies show Walmart encourages business growth in the community.  A study published by Navigant Consulting  showed that in a random selection of California cities with Walmarts, the number of business licenses increased by an average of 32.7% per community in the following year. This study looked at a full-size Walmart, not the much smaller Neighborhood Market planned for Altadena. However, I think a bright, new grocery store will encourage people to visit the neighboring businesses along the Lincoln corridor much more than the empty building there now.

Altadena needs small businesses that reflect the personality of our neighborhoods, however that just isn’t possible without a mix of larger chains to provide the initial draw. Just look at Old Town Pasadena or the South Lake Shopping District—not only do you have small businesses thriving, but you also have major national retailers as anchors. You won’t get those anchors by opposing such retailers.

Strong economies are built on policies that encourage free market growth and business development – not those that discourage it.  A moratorium on certain retailers isn’t just bad for local business; it’s bad for residents. On the same note, bashing Walmart while claiming to want to help local businesses and residents is just straight hypocritical.

In August I had the opportunity to visit the first Walmart Neighborhood Market in Huntington Beach, California. Instead of negative talk about what kind of jobs this grocery store would bring, the employees, residents, community leaders and small business owners I met were jubilant that a national retail chain was filling the spot in a long vacant building.

That’s the kind of attitude we need in Altadena.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leslie Aitken October 26, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Someone asked me to sign a petition banning new businesses over 15,000 sq. feet. I couldn't do it. If we had a cohesive, thriving and healthy selection of small businesses here -- like in Montrose, that would be one thing -- but we don't. We have some pretty cool places with earnest and hard working owner, but we don't have ANCHOR stores. When developers build malls and shopping centers, the first think of the ANCHOR stores. We have a run down Rite Aid Center and Ralphs. We have a large retail space next to Rite Aid, a noticeable vacancy in the Webster's center, where the Art Gallery used to be, Erlanders vacant store, The always empty retail space on the south corner by Elliott, the old Altadena Nursery, and the empty Blockbuster store. ANCHOR stores bring crowds. Crowds spill over. It would be nice if the focus would be more on what we want and need rather than arguing for our limitations.
Ivan G October 26, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I have to agree that trying to stop Walmart is ill-advised. We need to fill up vacant commercial lots with stable businesses that will survive for the long haul. Those who say they are going to attract upscale businesses that pay above-market wages are either disingenuous or delusional. That is especially true for Lincoln and Fair Oaks, which are run down and have crime problems.
Lisa Maiorana October 26, 2012 at 10:19 PM
love it
Ivan G October 26, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I have been following the news coverage of the Chinatown Walmart Neighborhood Market. It is fairly clear that the opponents are primarily labor unions and some business owners. It seems that residents who live nearby generally favor the Walmart. I suspect that the situation is similar with respect to the Lincoln/Figueroa Walmart.
trekman857 October 27, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Mr. Harlow, Thank you for your well expressed post. As you mentioned, while parts of Altadena has been languishing in economic despair for decades, anyone can easily see communities like Huntington Beach, including nearby South Pasadena, La Canada, Arcadia, Monrovia, Eagle Rock, Alhambra are thriving with retail and commercial activity. Altadena needs to welcome big named retailers, who will attract other retailers and businesses to invest and setup in Altadena. That's why so many retailers want to be located in shopping malls, shopping centers and outlet stores, bringing consumers together. It does not make sense that Wal-Mart is under such high scrutiny while other retailers, especially the small local retailers are the ones who actually don't offer health care coverage and the higher wages of Wal-Mart.
Melody Comfort October 27, 2012 at 05:35 PM
"... large companies enter a market...stimulate local business growth...utilizing nearby suppliers and vendors." Most Wal-Mart items I bought: Made in China. None Made in the USA, or California. May be different with a W.M. Market. We'll see what the dry bagged, boxed, & canned goods say on the labels. "...the number of business licenses increased by an average of 32.7% per community in the following year." I am concerned about preserving those unique small businesses, which are currently serving our Altadena community, not bankrupting them, then having new businesses with new licenses come into the community in their places. "The Walmart grocery store planned for Altadena will bring much-needed jobs to our community." The promise of having much needed jobs coming to Altadena through Wal-Mart doesn't seem to be a given, judging from what Mr. Angulo said was legally allowable for Wal-Mart to offer. If the Wal-Mart mega-corporation didn't have such an awful track record of moving into communities to purportedly support those communities, then undercut the small local businesses, ultimately bankrupting them, then move out of those same communities creating an even bigger blight, I possibly wouldn't be so averse to a Wal-Mart presence. My husband saw this happen repeatedly in the state where he grew up. Those issues addressed, I appreciate your observations, and the fact that you are willing to share them. Only time will be the proof of the reality!
Ivan G October 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The items sold in Walmart Neighborhood Markets are pretty much the same as those sold in supermarkets such as Ralphs and Vons. That includes produce. Walmart does not seem to sell as many Asian-made items as does Trader Joe's. The only stores I see Walmart as impacting are supermarkets and pharmacies.
Daniel E. Harlow October 27, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Melody - Thanks for the comment, on your specific items: The majority of goods are no longer made here in the USA. This is not unique to Walmart and if you stop in to the store in Huntington Beach you will see they carry the exact same products as Vons, Ralphs, etc. Second without more shoppers, drawn by anchors, the unique small businesses will not survive much longer. Look at the stores that have closed here, the Hallmark store, the Art Gallery, Altadena Nursery, etc. not a single one of these closed because of Walmart. They closed because of a variety of other factors such as the economy and the failure to recognize that shopping habits have changed and that they needed to also. Third the lack of those jobs being promised to Altadena residents, the reality is no employer can promise jobs to a certain group of people, if residents are the best candidates they will get the jobs. Fourth the negative impact that Walmart Supercenters has had on small towns elsewhere in the country and the assumption that will happen here. First this is not a Supercenter and second Altadena is not like most small towns but part of a larger metro area, one that has two Target’s, grocery stores, and other shopping within minutes. In Huntington Beach you will see that Walmart actually had a very positive impact, the center is now alive with other business. This also happened in Denver, CO and Chicago where Walmart went in. This is what we need to happen here. Daniel
Ivan G October 27, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I would like to see the mall at the NW corner of Altadena Dr and Lake Av redeveloped. The number of vacant and run-down buildings is evidence that shopping habits have changed. Ironically, the anti-Walmart crowd, who would ban chain stores over 15,000 sq ft, would keep out the very types of businesses that are needed to bring shoppers back to Altadena. Maybe if we got enough businesses the resulting sales tax revenues would enable us to incorporate.
Angela Odom October 27, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I agree Dan. As it is, I've been doing a lot of work around the house and I've found the local stores don't have what I need. I discovered the Home Depot in Alhambra and while there, I've been doing all of my shopping in that area, Costco, Fresh & Easy, Home Depot, and Fosselman's Ice Cream. Those stores bring people in and then they, like me, go exploring.
Araliahouse October 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM
What a shame to stop walmart. We must respect the freedom for businesses to come into areas and spend money and create jobs. We already have two empty businesses on lincoln. Superking is also 15000ft+. Lets be fair. Walmart is not forcing people to work there. I dont our lincoln av liquor stores creating 60+ jobs. Oh, yeah and they really atttract great clients. Why let the altadena top 5% decide for the rest of us who would benefit.
AJ October 28, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in this blog post. I also think that a moratorium banning stores 15K square feet or larger is probably the worst thing that could happen for Altadena's economy - these people are failing to see the forest through the trees. We need a mixed economy to survive. Right now we pretty much just have mom and pops, and look what has resulted from that- vacant store fronts and a limp economy. We need some more anchor stores to draw in the numbers of people that would then start shopping the mom and pops.
Melody Comfort October 28, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Could you please clarify what you mean by the "altadena top 5%". Thank you.
Ivan G October 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I think that the demands made by NBBA create an environment that is hostile to all new businessses and are likely to discourage all new businesses.
nicole moore November 01, 2012 at 10:28 PM
By the way, NBBA is NOT demanding a moratorium on 15K+ businesses. I haven't met one neighbors here on the Lincoln corredor that doesn't think we need something in that building at Lincoln & Figueroa. We just think there are better businesses to have - that don't have a track record of killing 3 jobs for every 2 they create. We want job creators, not job killers. www.buildingabetteraltadena.org
dianne hale November 02, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Mr Harlow, I find your blog insulting to good people, whom you call disengenuous and hypocritical, who are concerned for our community. Your tone leaves me wondering about your financial connection to Walmart. Is Walmart a client of your's?? I personally can see both some potential benefits as well as non-benefits from a Walmart store, and it is obvious that people who want to "stimulate business growth in Altadena while opposing Walmart Neighborhood Market can do so. Walmart is not the only way to stimulate growth, nor is it the only megastore we may want in our neighborhood. Anyone who watches the documentary "Walmart, the High Cost of Low Price" will indeed question whether we want to encourage a store with such unsavory practices in the past. I, like Ms Comfort, have a friend whose small, and thriving, business was put out of business by Walmart moving in. It is not fantasy that this was common in the past. Hopefully now there are different practices and we would all benefit from the store. Please, though, for those who are looking at the issue from both sides, stop with the name calling.
Ivan G November 02, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I don't think it is a question of encouraging Walmart, but rather of taking extraordinary action to stop it. The proposed Walmart is not a megastore. One reason to question the motives of the anti-Walmart crowd is that they regularly treat the proposed supermarket as if it were a big-box store, and rely on studies (of questionable objectivity) that relate to Walmart Supercenters. Finally, the anti-Walmart people always seem to be concerned with the fate of small business owners. This is a relatively small group of people. Aren't the benefits to the residents that the market will serve also important? I would say they are more important.
Daniel E. Harlow November 04, 2012 at 06:01 AM
Dianne – First I have no personal financial connection to WalMart. Also I am sorry you think I am calling people names, when I was just describing their actions, which are both hypocritical and disingenuous. For example many of the folks against Walmart have stated that they would be fine with a Trader Joes, Costco, or a Target, which also large companies with many of the same issues as WalMart. Second some of the same people in a survey by the Chamber reported they wanted more brand name businesses here in Altadena, but now they want to keep them out via a ban. In terms of the "Walmart, the High Cost of Low Price" movie, while there are things that are truly evil such as discrimination and labor code violations. Other items are misleading like blaming them for a closing of H&H, which actually closed before WalMart came to town, and leaving out that a new hardware store opened in its place. This is much like what happened here with Altadena Hardware. I would suggest you also watch Penn & Teller’s Bull$Shit Season 5 Episode 2 on Walmart (on YouTube) that goes over many of the issues brought up and even has an interview with the director. Daniel
Daniel E. Harlow November 04, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Unfortunately the studies you refer to as mentioned multiple times are for SuperCenters, not a WalMart Grocery Store, something still being ignored by many like yourself. The planned creation of jobs by WalMart here in Altadena is 65 jobs and there are very few companies that can create that many jobs here in Altadena. Daniel
Ivan G November 04, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Do you own a business that you think would be hurt by Walmart? Are you representing a labor union? Do you care about how much people living on the West side of Altadena have to pay for groceries? You only look at one side of the issue.
dianne hale November 04, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Hi Ivan...no, I don't own a small business nor represent a labor union, but please don't say I look at one side only, as I stated in my blog that I can see both pros and cons for having a Walmart. I was responding to the tone of Daniel's blog, which was too accusatory, in my opinion, of people who do oppose a Walmart. I was pointing out that there are historically good reasons that people mistrust the W. corporation, and that those same people can, without being hypocritical, trust and support a different large store that has a more reputable reputation. I still have trouble trusting the good intentions of Walmart, but after doing some research on it, I could see that there can be reasons to trust them. If I were a small business owner I would certainly want to research very carefully the potential impact on my business. This is a complex issue. Daniel, your suggestion of watching Penn and Teller is appreciated. We should all watch it. As for your other point, Ivan, it is a good one. I agree that residents should get to benefit with good prices, but some of those same residents are also business owners, and it is a delicate line between which is best to consider.. Let's just agree that the people concerned with this, for the most part, are concerned because they love Altadena and want the best for it. Don't you think? The "best" is the sticker. For the record: I don't support a ban.
Melody Comfort November 05, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Again, I wish to reiterate my concern about Wal-Mart getting a foothold in Altadena, through the initial insertion of its Neighborhood Market. The property on Woodbury Rd. east of Arroyo/Windsor, presently occupied by the Pasadena Unified School District Service Center, which it has considered selling or leasing out in the past to cover the district's budget shortfalls, is prime turf near a freeway for a big box. I wonder...is Wal-Mart scoping out that property for its future larger presence in Altadena? If that is within their corporate strategy for potential plans for our community, it could adversely affect more Altadena stores than only markets (Altadena Supermarket, Ralph's, Super King), bakeries (Dutch Oven, Patticakes) and pharmacies (Demi-Rx, Mat's, Webster's). It could affect: florists (Altadena Florist) & nurseries (Nuccio's). Or, stores that sell: clothing [Ace, Altadena Hardware, Rite Aid]; [Altadena Vacuum & Sewing Machines]; books; lawnmowers/garden supplies; movies/music; party supplies; office/business products (Systemated Business Products, Webster's); pet supplies (Rite Aid, Steve's)/ veterinarians; plumbing supplies (Ace, Altadena Hardware); bikes (Steve's); toys (Rite Aid, Websters), among others. I suspect Wal-Mart's ultimate intentions for its presence in our town. We should be watchful and preemptive in the protection of the quality of our town, especially if we detect Wal-Mart beginning to push for its big box model.
pusddad November 05, 2012 at 05:58 PM
when that prospect becomes more than mere speculation, the issue will be much different.
Ivan G November 06, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Walmart has a right to look at whatever property it chooses. If it wants to build s SuperCenter on Woodbury, I am certain the proposal would undergo extensive review. I don't see any reason to worry about it. I also could imagine the property being attractive to any number of businesses. Considering the proximity to Linda Vista and Flintridge, I could see more upscale businesses finding the location attractive, too.
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