Chicago retailers could face increased big box competition now that Walmart has announced its goal to build several dozen stores in the city over the next five years.
Part of a long-term initiative called the “Chicago Community Investment Partnership,” the new plan between the city of Chicago and Walmart would help eradicate food deserts and stimulate local economic development, and includes five key components:
-Open several dozen stores across the city of varying size and format. This would not only address Chicago’s double-digit commercial vacancy rate but, more importantly, provide customers with more convenient access to affordable groceries, especially those 600,000 residents living within Chicago’s three, self-identified food deserts;
-Create approximately 10,000 associate positions and 2,000 unionized construction jobs, helping to offset the city’s 11.4% unemployment rate;
-Generate more than $500 million in sales and property taxes, providing a much-needed revenue boost to a wide range of city and county services;
-Pay competitive wages at all levels, for Walmart associates across Chicagoland;
-Develop charitable partnerships in Chicago worth $20 million that work to eradicate hunger, curb youth violence and help all Chicago residents live better.
According to recent market wage assessments in Chicago, Walmart’s starting wage is fully competitive with most union and non-union retailers in several key categories such as cashier and stock associate.
“We want to deliver long-term solutions that benefit Chicago and its residents,” said Hank Mullany, executive vice president and president Walmart North, Walmart U.S. “While our goals are dependent on our ability to site and build stores in a timely fashion, we remain confident that we can make a real difference to Chicagoans in need of a job and those who seek more convenient access to fresh, affordable food, especially those living in the City’s underserved communities.”
“Our city is facing a number of challenges but most of all, we need good jobs,” said Alderman Anthony Beale of the 9th Ward, who is hoping to bring a new Walmart store to his community and recently secured a Community Benefits Agreement for his residents. “There is a growing divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and this initiative has the potential to begin to level the playing field for all Chicagoans.”
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation plan to commit $20 million over the next five years. This will include an annual donation of 1.2 million meals to Chicago residents and 200,000 meals for children this summer.
“Over the past several years, we’ve challenged ourselves to look for ways to make a long-lasting impact in neighborhoods across Chicago by funding programs that address critical needs, like hunger, education and job training,” added Mullany. “We look forward to sustaining those partnerships in the years to come and forging new relationships along the way.”