Five Reasons Why Hood River Doesn’t Need A (Bigger) Walmart
To quote the teen hipsters, my “panties are in a knot”.
Hood River, OR in the Columbia Gorge is one of my favorite areas on the planet. From my early days of windsurfing there as a teenager, to more recent dreams of settling down there with my family, the town and community have always had a huge place in my heart. And, it’s not just the scenery – it’s the people and local businesses that make Hood River so great (and such a drive for tourist dollars).
So, why are my panties in such a knot? Walmart. Well, maybe not Walmart as much as the Hood River City Council who just voted to approve an additional 30,000 square foot expansion to the already massive 72,000 square foot storefront. All I can think of are the amazing views of Mt. Hood being blocked by more giant signs to another unnecessary “SuperCenter” (see my cheesy animation below…)
As I’ve said a number of times in my blogging and interviews, I’m not necessarily anti-Walmart overall. I’m as much of a capitalist as Sam Walton, I guess, so I can at least understand/respect/appreciate the desire for a company to grow, grow, and grow… That said, I’m certainly a bigger fan of small local businesses in Hood River, and here are a few reasons I don’t think Hood River needs a Walmart at all (let alone a 102,000 sqft monster).
1. Character and Community
Hood River is a thriving tourist town that has built itself around the outdoor recreation, but is second-to-none when it comes to quaint, small, independent, locally-owned businesses. In order to be part of a community, you have to contribute to its ethos. I don’t see how more Walmart in Hood River is going to contribute to anything except less character and less community.
2. Local Dollars Staying Local
We almost moved to Hood River last year, but one of the reasons we didn’t was because the historic library couldn’t even remain open due to a shortage in necessary revenue to remain operational. For every dollar spent in Walmart, a tiny fraction stays in the community (there are too many studies about this to even mention…) How is a bigger Walmart going to help the Library or Public Schools? (Use this little calculator to see what a $10/mo shift in local spending could mean to the community (using the 22,000 county population as a guide, it’s over $1.5Mil/year)
3. Local Decision Making
With square footage comes money. With more money comes more power (and influence). I’d much rather have my local business owners and residents calling the shots on community issues in Hood River than somebody in a windowless cubicle in Bentonville, Arkansas. Want to keep a voice in the community? Support your local decision makers.
4. Environmental Issues
I’m no hippie, but I have always certainly appreciated the strong stances on environmental issues that have always been a natural fit from the Columbia River Gorge. With the crystal-blue skies, reflecting in the icy blue streams that flow through the rolling orchards and farmlands, it makes sense for Hood River to oppose Walmart’s expansion on environmental concerns alone. (Walmart’s 8,000 drivers burn over 118 Million gallons of fuel each year – over 4x the Exxon Valdex spill.)
5. Product Diversity and Competition
There are already several grocery stores in town. There are a couple of great hardware stores in town. And, heck – if you need 80 rolls of toilet paper, there is already a Costco down the road in Portland. The nice thing about local merchants all competing (against one another) is that is drives innovation for a greater product diversity (that “thing” you can’t get anywhere). With Walmart, you get what you get, wherever you are…
Here’s a great graphic from Frugal Dad that gives some great visual representations of just how HUGE WalMart really is… Rather than spoil the creativity with a summary of the data, check it out for yourself:
Not to mention, why is there a Walmart in Hood River, anyway? The town only has a population of about 7,500 residents, and nearby Portland certainly has enough Walmarts for everyone. ;^>
We would LOVE to partner with somebody in Hood River to launch a RelyLocal campaign in the Gorge. Get a hold of us, if you are interested in getting involved in ways to ensure that Hood River’s local businesses and wonderful community are here to stay.