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.