Another Brick in the Wal? | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Another Brick in the Wal? 

Local Matters

Is the world's largest company looking for more green in the Green Mountain State? That's what about 140 Vermonters came to find out last week at a meeting in Stowe Town Hall, sponsored by the Vermont Natural Resources Council. The VNRC claims that Wal-Mart is "discussing" the feasibility of building seven new stores in the state -- there are four already -- including one about nine miles from Stowe. The Montpelier-based environmental group opposes the construction of new Wal-Marts and other big-box stores because of their impacts on traffic, sprawl, retail wages and the economic viability of small, local businesses.

But a Wal-Mart spokesperson says the company has no plans to locate new stores in Vermont except for the 147,000-square-foot store now under consideration in St. Albans. Elsewhere is another matter. In the coming fiscal year, Wal-Mart expects to build about 300 new stores worldwide, totaling 50 million square feet of new retail space. In fact, a new Wal-Mart opens somewhere in the world every 42 hours.

Middlebury-based author Bill McKibben, who spoke at last week's meeting in Stowe, says that if Wal-Mart had 11 stores in the state, it would save Vermonters about $36 million annually -- about $50 per person. Still, he suggests the losses would far outweigh the savings.

"Wal-Mart is, in a sense, doing us a great favor by proposing this invasion in Vermont," McKibben says. "It is forcing us to ask a deep question, and that question is, what do we value most -- lowest prices always, or our neighbors, their jobs, our towns, our land, our cultures?"

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

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