Friday, April 23, 2004

WalMart in New Richmond, WI

Friday, April 23, 2004

Annexation decision was much bigger than Wal-Mart

Life is all about choices and consequences. New Richmond -- and its decision to allow a nearly 100,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter to build here -- is certainly no exception to that rule.

But important choices are usually made for important reasons. And in the case of Wal-Mart, the issue was much bigger than the store, itself.

Set aside, for the moment, the notion that Wal-Mart would have built a store in the town of Richmond anyway -- even if the City Council had said no. That idea came out during discussions leading up to the council’s approval. It certainly could have turned out that way, but the expense to Wal-Mart would have been huge. And Wal-Mart is not the kind of company to spend start-up money foolishly.

This annexation was about money -- not Wal-Mart’s money but money that could well flow into the pockets of employees, the city treasury, and the investment portfolios of business owners and stockholders.

At the Plan Commission hearing April 8, it was mentioned that $10 per hour is hardly enough to pay an average mortgage in New Richmond. Yet hundreds of people will be employed at the new store. Every dollar they spend here will (according to a time-honored formula) “turn over” four to seven times before it leaves the community. While Wal-Mart will bring few head-of-household jobs, it will create a lot more buying power among employees.

The estimated property tax income from the store will be close to $140,000 a year, a number that will only go up. That’s a big spike for the city’s tax collections.

But the biggest financial aspect of the Wal-Mart decision involves the 280 additional acres involved in the annexation.

Potential new businesses may bring hundreds of new jobs, hundreds of thousands of dollars in new property tax revenues and potential millions in revenue and income for stockholders and developers as the Casey Farm is developed over the years.

The annexation also makes it possible for the city to build an important new sanitary sewer extension. Its completion opens scores of additional acres to new development along the east side of Knowles Avenue (south of the County Market supermarket).

If you want to know where new construction is going to take place, you follow the (sewer or water) pipe, and that’s what’s going to happen on the Casey property.

The same goes for discovering the reasons behind the 300-acre annexation. Just follow the money.

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