Robert H. Smith School of Business
Capital Business
Posted at 01:35 PM ET, 11/22/2011

Wal-Mart agrees to fund job training programs, open hiring centers in deal with District officials

Wal-Mart officials and the District government say they have signed a community benefits agreement offering fresh commitments on hiring and contracting as the retailer prepares to open a series of stores in the city.

Under the deal, Wal-Mart agrees to seek District small- and minority-
A Wal-Mart store in Landover Hills, Md. The retail giant is planning to open six stores in the District. (Jeffrey MacMillan - For Capital Business)
owned businesses for construction of its stores; create and fund training programs aimed at populations suffering from high unemployment rates; and open hiring centers in the wards where the chain opens stores.

The chain also agreed not to sell guns or ammunition and to install bike-sharing stations and bike racks at its District stores — features that will distinguish the new stores from many of its others across the country.

The community benefits deal follows a year of on-and-off negotiations between representatives of the the chain and city officials, after Wal-Mart announced last November that it planned to open four stores in the city, in wards 4, 5, 6 and 7. The company has since added two sites to its plans, in wards 4 and 7.

Wal-Mart posted a five-page summary of the agreement on its D.C. Web site Tuesday saying it was committed to “working collaboratively” to improve the neighborhoods it served and that it would offer “merchandise and services reflective of the community.”

District Mayor Vince Gray, who successfully pushed the chain to plan a store for Skyland Town Center, said in a press release that the agreement “represents an unprecedented, citywide commitment from a retailer that is already poised to help create more than 1,800 permanent jobs in our city.”

“Walmart is showing what it means to be a good corporate neighbor, and I encourage other firms interested in doing business in the District of Columbia to show a similar level of commitment to our residents,” he said.

Wal-Mart’s stores require little from the city, as it did not seek subsidies to open as other retailers have. But the chain has long endured criticism and questions over its hiring and employment practices, and opponents of the company have staged a string of protests. Wal-Mart officials say the stores will create 1,800 jobs, offer fresh groceries in under-served areas and pay competitively.

The deal was reported earlier by the Washington Business Journal.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

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