Consider downside of big-box stores before buying in

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2004

Home Depot and Wal-Mart are planning to come to Juneau. The advantages of wider selection are obvious. Are there some downsides? Could this indicate the end of locally owned businesses (a trend in recent years)? Are we rapidly becoming a town composed of outside-owned business to meet our year-round needs and summertime jewelry and tourism shops?

Home Depot's catalog prices appear little different than that of current suppliers. Will the prices these stores offer be, or remain, lower? Hasn't our experience been that once businesses are established prices rise to meet local cost of doing business? Will prices increase when they are our sole suppliers? Is it true that Wal-Mart pays lower wages and offers fewer benefits? Are lower prices a good tradeoff for lower wages since people who make less can afford to buy less? Will our already strained social services be further burdened? Big box stores are in the forefront of automating checkout and other personal services - does this mean fewer jobs for Juneauites?

If we lose established businesses occupying prime locations will the borough gain or lose property taxes? We have recently seen large outside chains move into town and then out again. Are more empty buildings likely to result? Doesn't the game of "musical stores" and empty spaces in our malls indicate the retail limitations of our population size? Has our Assembly investigated the impact Wal-Mart has had on Ketchikan's locally owned businesses? Do we know how strategies to keep big box stores out have effected communities who attempted to do this? Are there, in fact, any useful (and legal) actions that our local government can take to support local business and reasonable wages and benefits?

I hope that questions so important to the long range economic health of our community are being given careful consideration. The Empire could help by providing information on how other towns are trying to resolve such issues.

Karl Hegg


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