Will Walmart roll back or move forward?
Feb 01, 2011 | 12385 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Back in August of 2010, we got word that Walmart was getting more serious about coming into the New York market, and we wrote about it. Boy, did we get some snarling response from local business advocates and a few local council representatives. (But then again, that's nothing new for Pol Position)

We wrote how Walmart wasn't really any different than Target, Home Depot or BJ’s, yet there was little objection to those big stores coming to town. We wrote about the double-digit unemployment rate here and how Walmart would provide good jobs. We wrote about how New York needs a Walmart, not because there is nowhere else to shop, but because competition is good for the economy...even the local economy.

And now local elected officials are mobilizing themselves again to fight the scourge that is Walmart. Why? Because they can (no, really, someone on the inside told us just that), and on the surface it looks like they are sticking up for the little guy, we guess.

When we spoke with representatives from Walmart back in August, asking what the holdup was, we got the impression the executives responsible for expanding were ready to go, but the muckety-muck big shots might be afraid of New York City after experiencing some local resistance.

You see, in most places throughout the U.S., Walmart is accustomed to feeling fairly welcomed, but not so in New York City. Sorry Walmart, you are going to have to earn your groundbreaking ceremonies, ribbon-cutting photo ops, and City Council proclamations, they aren't just going to be handed to you. (Well, if you get them, they will be handed to you, but you know what we mean.)

No, you'll have to go about this they way other big companies handle it: join the local chamber of commerce, donate a few thousand dollars to the neighborhood senior center, put their name on the back of a councilman’s favorite baseball team, and maybe even raise some money for the speaker of the City Council. You’re not going to get a key to this city just because you are opening a big box store and call yourself “Walmart.”

And why do local elected officials have such a problem with Walmart, you ask? Well, because the company doesn't promote diversity, does not give back, does not participate in the community, etc., which is, well, just plain wrong.

Walmart has a charitable foundation that is more active than most big companies its size. It has many scholarship funds, including an Asian Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund, a Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships, program support and capacity building to students at nearly 50 black colleges and universities around the nation.

And what about its workforce? Did you know that only 59 percent of its workforce is female? Come on Walmart, you can do better than over half. And 35 percent of its workforce is minority. You'll have plenty of time to work on that already respectable number once you get to New York City.

The truth is, Walmart is already doing business here. It spends $5.5 million with New York City suppliers, its apparel offices are in Midtown, and its foundation has given more than $9 million to New York City-based organizations.

But the company's fear of the big-talking New York City Council and all of the “community-based protest” is quickly diminishing. There are City Council hearings being held this week, but it appears that Walmart executives have figured out that the New York City Council is harassing it just because...they can. (And now that they have figured that out, they are just as smart as Pol Position!)

Walmart is going to take a good deal of heat and maybe some negative national attention for trying to enter one of the nation's largest markets (not to mention the nation's largest media market, which is always looking for some controversy), but in the the end Walmart executives will have to act like true New Yorkers and just take the lumps.

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