Letters to the Editor

Business: City benefits from Wal-Mart

In response to the recent letters to the editor regarding Wal-Mart, I think that the facts speak for themselves. During the first year of its operation in Oak Harbor, the sales tax base increased by over $1 million. Was that a redistribution of dollars spent? Of course it was! The redistribution was from businesses located outside of Island County TO the Oak Harbor Wal-Mart. Does that make a difference to our community? You bet it does! From the $1 million increase in sales tax, the city directly receives that increased income to pay for the services it provides to its residents, as well as businesses.

Indirectly, the employees at Wal-Mart spend most of their money right here in Oak Harbor. I’ll bet they have insurance, buy groceries, and gas up their cars. I’m sure they are grateful that they don’t have to commute off the island to work retail in another community.

I don’t think that a company with over a million employees can sustain as horrific business practices as Ms. Burton indicated without losing those employees. Again, we live in a free country, no one is forced to work at Wal-Mart. The market will drive the business practices. Besides, any business with 3,000 stores and a million employees is bound to have issues with some of their managers, and I am sure that they deal with the exceptions as they arise.

If you’ve ever operated a business in the past 25 years, you would know that the federal and state employment laws are more complex than the building codes in Bellevue! You couldn’t get away with bad employment practices for long, and Wal-Mart has been around for a long time.

Wal-Mart pays a hefty sum of property taxes, and that they donate tens of thousands of dollars back into our community each year. That creates jobs and helps those who need it. Then, those people in turn, buy more goods and services. It’s called the ripple effect, and it makes our economy function.

I have even noticed that many people from Anacortes and South Whidbey are coming to Oak Harbor to buy their goods at Wal-Mart. I’ll bet they might have lunch, buy groceries, and gas up their cars too.

Does our downtown need some attention? Sure it does. It needs attention from everyone in our community. It needs us to be the customers of its businesses so that it can thrive.

Want to help our community? Spend your money here — either at Wal-Mart or at the variety of other fine businesses in town. Put out the good word about our community to friends and family, and help us to maintain our positive image. Whidbey Island is a great place to live, and having amenities like Wal-Mart helps keep our dollars local.

Priscilla Heistad

Executive Director

Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce

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