Environmentalists, not Wal-Mart, hurt Ketchikan

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

I think Bruce Abel (July 1) and Dave Fremming (July 2) both make excellent points concerning their views on the effect of large chain stores opening up in small communities.

Related Editorial:

• My Turn: Big box stores can hurt small towns

July 1, 2003

• Let customers decide where to shop

July 2, 2003

I try and shop locally as much as possible, but sometimes the savings of purchasing an item online or through a catalog is so great that I have to go that route. Also, the $100 (or whatever amount) I save doing that is usually spent at a local restaurant or local grocery store. I believe that the majority of Juneau citizens try and shop local as much as possible.

However, the main reason I write is to clarify one point Mr. Abel made. Wal-Mart was certainly one of the final nails in the coffin of numerous Ketchikan small businesses. And yes, the mall is only half full and a large part of the town has moved away.

But the main reason for the community's economic troubles over the past several years hasn't been due to the opening of Wal-Mart, but the closure of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill. Thanks to Bill Clinton and his crew, and the extreme environmentalist types, more than 500 people lost their jobs. Ketchikan wasn't large enough of a community to absorb these newly unemployed people and a large percentage of them were forced to move away. This, of course, had a devastating effect on the economy, the housing market, grocery stores, local small businesses and the school system. People didn't realize that it wasn't just 500 "tree killers" losing their jobs, and that the closure would also have a severe tumbling effect on the entire community. A large portion of those 500 people moved away and took their families with them. That meant less people shopping at the local grocery store or beauty salon or auto store or drug store, which led to even more people in other fields, not related to the renewable timber industry, losing their jobs as well. Schools saw their attendance drop, which meant teachers had to be laid off, precipitating their departure, which contributed to even more lost revenue. It's an on-going cycle.

It's 2003 and if you travel to Ketchikan you'll see they haven't recovered yet.

Their one mall is barely half full of stores and now the biggest provider of jobs is the tourism industry.

While Wal-Mart definitely had an effect on the smaller local family owned stores in Ketchikan, the closing of the pulp mill was certainly more devastating to the economy and its residents.

Brad Groghan


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