Our View: Free enterprise
As was the case eight months ago, news that Wal-Mart was considering opening a supercenter in Craig sparked a flurry of rumors and speculation.
Now that store officials have confirmed the wheels are in motion, tongues are wagging in support and opposition.
Perhaps it’s time to put this situation in perspective.
Protests directed toward Moffat County government officials likely will go nowhere. That’s not because any commissioner has expressed support, but because this development won’t take place in the county.
Commissioners hands are tied, as are those of the Craig City Council. The property Wal-Mart has chosen to build on is zoned commercial and is completely within city ordinance for the property owner to divide that property into parcels suitable for future development.
The city has the authority to require certain standards be met, but those areas are limited. Drainage, parking, curb and gutter and traffic issues and compliance with building codes are among those.
There isn’t even a city ordinance that requires the building to look a certain way. There is no architectural review in place.
Wal-Mart is — just as Kmart, Murdoch’s and KFC/Taco Bell were — free to build to their specifications. Those things mentioned above not withstanding.
Preventing Wal-Mart from building would require the Craig City Council to pass an ordinance that limits the square footage of any business built in Craig. That would mean Craig never would see a Sutherlands, a Lowes or a Target — stores some of those who oppose Wal-Mart say they would be happy to see.
Unfortunately this isn’t a situation in which people can pick and choose. You have to take the good with the bad.
Wal-Mart has a reputation nationally for paying low wages and providing no benefits, something opponents have voiced contention with.
Although it certainly would be better for employees if health insurance was provided, Wal-Mart wouldn’t be the only employer in Craig that didn’t provide benefits.
Ask a fast food manager what their benefit package looks like. Ask a plumber, a painter or a construction worker.
Having health insurance provided by an employer is far less common than most think.
What people should be looking at is the health insurance system and why it’s so cost-prohibitive to provide for employees or purchase individually.
As far as wage goes, an average of $10.71 an hour for an entry-level employee who needs few skills and little education to obtain a job seems reasonable. A quick look at local employment ads will show there are quite a few jobs — without benefits — being offered in Craig in that range, many that require experience or even a college degree.
What an additional 200 jobs could do is decrease the unemployment rate in Moffat County and provide a local job for those who are driving 100 miles a day to work.
A petition opposing Wal-Mart is being circulated. It states a concern that “the proposed Wal-Mart will severely impact existing businesses in Craig.”
There certainly is the chance that local businesses will be affected by Wal-Mart, but living in a free-enterprise system means that all business owners take that chance.
Was there opposition to Wendy’s, knowing it would affect McDonald’s and Taco Bell? Was there opposition to Murdoch’s, knowing that Samuelson’s and MJK could suffer? Is there opposition when a new hair salon opens or when a derelict building was remodeled to provide a fifth liquor store in Craig?
No. To each of those.
Existing businesses that could be affected by Wal-Mart have the opportunity to prove they offer something Wal-Mart doesn’t, whether it be ambiance, uniqueness or customer services.
In fact, many already are. Residents have proven they’ll drive to Steamboat Springs, Rifle, Vernal, Utah, or to shop at Wal-Mart, and existing businesses must compete with that now.
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