My Wal-Mart post has received some considerable attention. Especially from those concerned about business growth in Huntingdon, PA. I was going to craft a comment response in my previous post, but I thought this deserved a new thread…
Well, Huntingdon is an interesting situation. The manufacturing jobs are all but dried up there. The only real “good” jobs are at the college. Unfortunately, the college is what has been keeping the town alive for so long. Otherwise, Huntingdon probably would’ve dried up in the early 90’s.
On the other hand… the little shops in Huntingdon are mostly junk. That place that is diagonal from the OIP is an eyesore and a sign of poor economic and cultural stability. If folks from Raystown want to take a half day trip into Huntingdon to get away from the Lake, they aren’t going to find much in the ways of window shopping or cultural enlightenment.
Wal-Mart, in Huntingdon, is a Catch-22 in my eyes. As far as I can tell, Huntingdon is doomed in the long run unless a real manufacturing company comes in a sets up an operation. The fiberglass plant is in bad shape. Huntingdon needs a blue-collar shot in the arm from industry, not retail. The HCBi is desperately trying to attract business, but in this case, it’s the wrong business. Wal-Mart is a short term fix. Economic impact studies have got to show that Wal-Mart would turn the Huntingdon “business district” into a ghost town.
On the consumer side, Huntingdon, once again, is poor. John Q. Welfare can’t afford to drive to Altoona or State College all the time to get fair market prices for goods. Heck, even finding a selection of items or even specific items requires a trip of at least a half hour. That being said, Wal-Mart would be very convienent for Huntingdon inhabitants. People could get what they wanted without having to spend $20 in gas to get there and have an hour stolen from their life. This is fantastic for the poor community in Huntingdon in terms of cheap goods.
Wal-Mart would certainly employ many of the welfare-bound citizens in Huntingdon. This would be great for them to finally have a job. However, we come back to fair wages and benefits practices as a focus. Wal-Mart doesn’t offer fair anything. Workers will get paid $6.75 an hour and still qualify for food stamps. They will still need government assistance for health care for children and spouses. There is a no win situation for workers in that market.
As for local businesses being shut down… frankly, some of them need to go away anyway. However, we will most likely have to say goodbye to the two or three icons of Huntingdon ‘cool.’ Mary’s Bargains won’t last more than 2 years after a Wal-Mart opening. Same goes for Mark’s Corner Store. The big loser in this venture will be the giant department store, Miller’s. I don’t see Miller’s lasting anymore than a year upong Wal-Mart’s opening. Fortunately, it may boost the restaurant industry in Huntingdon thanks to the visitors coming in from the surrounding areas.
If I lived in Huntingdon and had the means, I would be ordering all my ‘specialty’ goods from the internet. We live in Pittsburgh and we still do that. We don’t go shopping for bath towels. We order them from LL Bean. We don’t go to Best Buy to buy electronics. We order them. Prices on items and delivery have come down so far in the past 3 years that anything you can’t get in Huntingdon can be picked up on the internet. You’re gonna pay a little more to have it delivered to your door, but does it cost more than driving to State College or Altoona? Unfortunately, this only helps the problem among those with the money, means, and knowledge to order items from the internet.
In conclusion, I see Wal-Mart as a short term fix for Huntingdon. As I said, those with the means, need to find better ways of getting specialty items that aren’t available in Huntingdon. Mail/Internet ordering seems to be the way to do that. But everyone needs to support Huntingdon businesses when possible. Shop at Weis, not the Super Wal-Mart. Get your gas at Sheetz, not the Super Wal-Mart. Huntingdon needs to have a real blue-collar manufacturing plant come in to provide fair paying jobs. Until that happens, Huntingdon will continue to wither.