Supercenter: good news, good sense

Walmart expansion would benefit Chico in the same way as other cities

Bob Linscheid is president/CEO of the Chico Economic Planning Corp. and a trustee for the California State University system.

Walmart has applied to expand its Forest Avenue store. The environmental-impact report is on the city Web site. The Planning Commission hearing is July 16.

Recent Chico news headlines include the Chico Mall declaring bankruptcy, Butte County’s unemployment rate hitting a 15-year high and the city facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall.

These are a result of today’s economy, where businesses in our community and throughout the country are struggling, and unemployment rates have reached a staggering high. Our community must take action to stimulate the economy by supporting projects that increase tax revenue and create jobs while preserving Chico’s lifestyle.

In the coming months, the city will consider approving Walmart’s plan to expand a store that has been part of Chico for more than 15 years and has made a considerable investment in our community by purchasing from local suppliers and contributing significantly to local charities.

At a time when the city is cutting critical public services and laying off public employees, the importance of expanding job opportunities and increasing sales-tax revenue has taken on greater importance and urgency.

The proposed Walmart supercenter would help strengthen our local economy, as shown by a recent study by Navigant Consulting, an international consulting firm, which concluded that the local business climate in California communities improved with the presence of Walmart supercenters. The study was led by Lon Hatamiya, secretary of California’s Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency under former Gov. Gray Davis. His research found that every community in California with an operating Walmart supercenter benefited from a significant increase in sales-tax revenue and an increase in new business permits.

In our neighboring communities, Anderson experienced an increase in taxable retail sales of more than $51 million and Yuba City an increase of more than $35 million only one year after the openings of their respective supercenters.

These findings reaffirm that cities and neighboring businesses have benefited, not suffered, from Walmart. The existing Chico Walmart store is among the city’s biggest sales-tax generators, and new retail and restaurants have located around the store since it opened some 15 years ago.

The proposed supercenter will preserve Chico’s prominence as a regional retail leader and create hundreds of new jobs while conforming with the city’s general plan and without creating urban sprawl or impacting our community’s rich natural resources. And, the store will be environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Let’s create a positive news headline by encouraging the growth of successful businesses, and soon Chico will join the ranks of California’s communities that are prospering as a result of a Walmart supercenter.