Why We Don"t Need Another Walmart In West Orlando

This article originally published in West Orlando News Online.

Okay, I read the articles in various media outlets about a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Store coming to Washington Shores. They all talked about Washington Shores being a food desert and welcomed the market to the neighborhood.

The reason for pursuing Wal-Mart was because they said there is a lack of fresh vegetables and produce in the area.

 

The residents would have to drive several miles to a national chain food store. They said that this puts undue burden on the senior citizens in the area who would have to get a cab or catch a bus to get their groceries.

 

 Another point used to validate the bringing of Wal-Mart into the community was the false belief that Wal-Mart will generate good jobs for a community where unemployment runs high. There is a high rate of unemployment in the area especially among our youth. Exchanging unemployment checks for minimum wage pay and a thirty-two hour work week will not help. In fact, this will make matters worse, especially when you know that these Wal-Mart employees are now the working poor and most will have to rely on government subsidies to survive. Studies have shown there is no net benefit for the immediate community that is served by Wal-Mart.

As I drive around the Washington Shores neighborhood, I see many small stores and businesses trying to survive this down economy. I see small grocery stores, and other food stores. Many have been in the area for years. There are produce trucks spotted around the area and of course a Bar-B-Que grill and fish sandwich stands. I see several Caribbean Grocery Stores and even an Afro Market not far away. There are many other small businesses in this particular area. There are doctors, lawyers, dentist, accountants, restaurants, clothing stores, auto repair shops, hair salons and barber shops and more.

 All of these businesses will be negatively impacted by the opening of a Wal-Mart in the area. They will lose their customers to the big box store and the money will leave the neighborhood. When that money leaves the neighborhood, there will be less money too, for community projects like side walks and parks. Wal-Mart seldom donates funds for local projects that don’t directly impact their own bottom line.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to grow local businesses and save our neighborhood’s heritage? Instead, we are pursuing a big box store that doesn’t care about you or your neighbors.

In February 2012, Hope Church hosted a forum titled. “Occupy Our Community, A Thriving Community.” The forum asks, “How we breakthrough to achieve self-sustainability as a community?” There were eight panelists and they all made correct and proper statements. They talked about starting businesses in the community, and growing existing businesses already in the community. They talked about education and family life. They talked about high paying jobs and gaining a dependable career path. Then Allie Braswell, Jr. of the Central Florida Urban League pushed the idea of bringing in a Wal-Mart into the area, which was totally opposite to everything else that was talked about.

 Until the moment Mr. Braswell talked about Wal-Mart, the store name had barely been mentioned. Allie Braswell of Central Florida Urban League and Dr. Robert Spooney of the African American Chamber of Commerce, FAILED the community.

 The Urban League and the African American Chamber of Commerce are charged with the economic development of the Black community. When they agreed to pursue Wal-Mart for the purposes of job creation and community growth, it shows that they shouldn’t be leading these organizations in our community. It shows that they failed to come up with a workable plan that will help more residents than it hurts. They failed the existing business owners who could use their help and want their help.

One such business owner who reached out to Braswell was ignored. Chris Rouse of C and C Pharmacy reached out several times to Mr. Braswell and Sam Ings. All three are located in the same building and I’m sure pass each other from time-to-time in the hall way.

 I talked to Chris Rouse about the impact on his business with the arrival of Wal-Mart. That conversation with Chris could be heard here:

  Chris told me that he and Bishop Wiggins attended FAMU together while both were pursuing pharmacy degrees. Chris was very surprised to learn that Bishop Wiggins would put him in a position where he would have to struggle to survive, after begin successful for almost twenty years. Chris knows now that he can’t depend on his pastor, he can’t depend on his city council representative, and he can’t depend on the Central Florida Urban League.

 The conversation that I had with Chris Rouse, is only one of several discussions with local business owners. They all said just about the same things. Wal-Mart will surely run them out of business. With just a little help, their businesses along with the community could survive and thrive. So, explain to me please: ‘Why are we pursuing Wal-Mart into our neighborhood?

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