Well, the county commissioners voted Monday to approve Wal-Martâ€™s request to build a supercenter at the junction of N.C. 16 and 73. But in all honesty, the vote was anti-climactic, to say the least. In the minds of many, both pro and con, it seemed a foregone conclusion.
This is no aspersion upon the county commissioners, whose members undertook this issue with all seriousness and study and applied an impartial, even hand; if anything, this august body may have been more demanding and stringent with the representatives of Wal-Mart than those opposing the retailer.
But in the end, Wal-Mart won out, as it seems those forces knew it would.
One clue was the fact no one from Wal-Mart, be it a local employee or manager, someone from its corporate office in Arkansas, or its public relations firm took umbrage to our previous editorial urging the county commissioners to reject Wal-Mart.
Another clue was that no reaction, save one or two, came to us from the opposing camp; and even those few responses tacitly acknowledged the campaign was lost.
Yet a third hint was the fact that in our previous editorial, we erroneously stated the location was at the junction of N.C. 16 and 27; a fact no one brought to attention. Usually, when we make a mistake like this, our readers jump all over us, deservedly so. (Incidentally, the correct site will be at the junction of N.C. 16 and 73.)
Now it is going to be up to Wal-Mart to prove it will be a good, upstanding corporate citizen. By that we mean, going far beyond the retailerâ€™s normal marketing blitz, of photo ops and press releases proclaiming which charitable cause is its latest â€œflavor of the week or month.â€
We challenge Wal-Mart to put its money where its mouth is. Without a doubt, local businesses are going to be affected, many of them adversely. How about if Wal-Mart conducts and underwrites training sessions, seminars and expos in conjunction with Gaston College and Lincolnton-Lincoln County business associations, instructing how those operations can successfully co-exist with it?
It will also be up to Wal-Mart to make sure its employees here donâ€™t end up having to turn to local government resources to make ends meet, thus draining the coffers of this community, a fact that has been documented countless times not only here in North Carolina, but across the nation.
Time will tell what the overall impact Wal-Martâ€™s presence will be. While we have our doubts, we will tentatively extend Wal-Mart the benefit of the doubt for the time being. However, we donâ€™t think much will come of it. After all, it still hasnâ€™t responded to our request for the facts behind the numbers it cited regarding the number of North Carolina-based businesses with which it does business, so why should it respond to the challenges we have now set before it? After all, its overwhelming success wherever it goes has bred a haughty arrogance. Why should this latest victory be any different?
And as for those who opposed Wal-Mart, we quote Dylan Thomas:
â€œDo not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.â€
In the face of overwhelming odds, you gave it the good fight. For that you have our undying respect.