By Sarah Carlson, Copy Editor
A second Wal-Mart Supercenter is scheduled to open in September 2005 at the intersection of Interstate 20 and Highway 351.
The Abilene City Council approved a request from Wal-Mart on July 22 to rezone the acreage at the intersection for a development district. After the Supercenter opens, the Wal-Mart on Judge Ely Boulevard will close.
Elizabeth Grindstaff, Abilene’s interim director of community development services, said the Supercenter is part of a comprehensive development plan where the city is looking to stimulate commercial growth, and it will be “a real asset” to the areas around ACU.
“I think that it will stimulate some development on the north side of town,” Grindstaff said.
She said many conversations have taken place about encouraging more development in the central area of Abilene as well as the north side. It’s not a “north side – south side issue” as many make it out to be, Grindstaff said, as many on the north side of town complain about the lack of businesses compared to the south side.
Students have mixed opinions about the opening of the Supercenter.
Rheannon Reese, senior marketing major from Austin, said the new Wal-Mart will be convenient to go to and will provide another grocery store for the area.
“I think it’s a great location, and we’ll be more likely to go over there,” Reese said.
Brandon Kinder, senior youth and family ministry major from Memphis, Tenn., said he is excited about the Supercenter opening because it will be convenient for students who need a place to shop late at night.
“I really can’t wait,” Kinder said, “because time and time again I have needed groceries after midnight, and I’m not driving out to the other side of town to get them.”
Elizabeth Alvarez, senior political science major from McAllen, disagrees.
Alvarez said she is concerned about the opening of another Wal-Mart in Abilene because the company offers low-paying jobs and crushes small businesses.
“I think that Wal-Mart, despite the publicity that it’s able to buy itself, has a horrible track record for growing smaller communities,” Alvarez said.
ACU students have benefited somewhat from the presence of Wal-Marts in Abilene, Alvarez said, but only if you look at it from a short-term perspective.
She said she has not shopped at Wal-Mart in a year and a half and tries to buy her goods from places where she can verify where they were made, preferably in America.
Wal-Mart is the world’s largest clothing retailer and one of the biggest U.S. food retailers, controlling 15 percent of the U.S. market. By its 2003-2004 fiscal year, Wal-Mart had revenues of 256.3 billion dollars at its nearly 3,600 stores worldwide and profits of 9 billion dollars. It is the world’s largest private employer with 1.4 million employees.
“I don’t like the way it treats its laborers,” Alvarez said. “The prices are lower at Wal-Mart because the workers who create those goods and sell them to us make less than they should.”
Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, said Wal-Mart has factories in China where workers are paid as little as 13 cents an hour.
Kinder said he is aware of how Wal-Marts affect communities, but he can’t afford to be picky.
“Wal-Mart is good for me because I can get cheap groceries and cheap supplies by only going to one place,” Kinder said. “As far as the business community, it’s probably not good because it’s taking over small businesses, but it’s good for the general consumer.”
Alvarez said one should think twice before buying items at Wal-Mart because they are cheaper. She said because of Wal-Mart’s large control over the market, it is able to drive its prices down lower than they should go, much lower than smaller companies can go, thus putting them out of business.
“The more Wal-Marts that are here just means it will continue to be our first and last resort to buy things,” Alvarez said.
“If having those cheaper pens is so worth it to you that you are willing to cost someone their dignity, then maybe you should rethink your consumption habits.”