The May 8 Local Opinions commentary by David Merriman and Joseph J. Persky [“ The Chicago precedent: Wal-Mart’s arrival was a wash for workers ”] made clear that the first Wal-Mart store in Chicago had a profound effect on surrounding businesses, as 82 businesses that sold competing goods closed within two years of Wal-Mart’s arrival. Imagine the disastrous consequences of
four stores in a city like the District, which has a fraction of Chicago’s population.
There’s no question that our most vulnerable neighborhoods, where the Wal-Mart stores are planned, are desperately underserved. But the answer is not to enlist a big-box bully that depresses wages and crushes small competitors.
The solution is multi-tiered and drawn from a sustainable economy: innovative businesses, better tax incentives, improved infrastructure and a more prepared workforce.
Mr. Merriman and Mr. Persky seemed to be ambivalent about the far-reaching, harmful impact of Wal-Mart’s urban strategy on jobs. But some facts are indisputable. Local, independent businesses give a neighborhood character. They create more local jobs, pay more taxes and keep more money in the community. And they cannot compete against the world’s largest retailer, whose track record of destroying local businesses speaks louder than any academic research.
Andy Shallal, Washington
The writer is a D.C. restaurant owner and chairman of Think Local First DC.