May The Forth Be With You

I snagged that line for the title from today's Grist.

I have been pouring over tax reports from our community records. The graphs compare communities in this county during the last 13 years. In the spirit of transparency and sunshine, the councilwoman I often speak highly of here at make-a-(green)plan has forwarded the city staff report. My takeaway in my first read through is that far too much of our community's business is dependent on big box corporate owners.

This last week I got an email from the local library that my requested book, "Big Box Swindle" is ready for me to pick up. Beany provide the excerpt below and a link to Green Bean's review. I'm indebted to them both for this post. I feel Big Box Swindle is something I should read. The library is closed today, so I'll have to wait until next week.
It may take a few years for the fallout from a new superstore to fully materialize, but ultimately the number of jobs created is offset by at least an equal number of job losses at other stores. The reason is fairly simple: retail development does not represent real growth. It does not generate new economic activity. Opening a Target superstore will not increase the amount of milk people drink or how many rolls of paper towels they use in a year. It will not increase their disposable income. The size of retail spending "pie" in a local market is a function of how many people live in the area and how much income they have. Building new stores does not expand the pie; it only reapportions it.
Flag image from Inspire me, now! blog


Rosa said...

I don't have any faith that any locality will learn that lesson; or that, if one does, the one next door will not, and undermine their efforts.

I say that from growing up in Iowa, where every small town had a failed Main Street - and now they mostly have a failed Main Street and also a failed mall or small, early big-box store that has been undone by a bigger big-box, farther from the center of town and even harder to reach without a car. The mall in my home town is spooky these days, always half empty - and there are two empty grocery store buildings because when they finished the Super WalMart and SuperTarget, one local grocery went belly-up and the other built a newer, bigger store across the street from the WalMart.

When I moved to Iowa City I was so in love with their PedMall, and by the time I moved away it was dying - because Coralville had built a big mall and a bunch of idiotic small businesses had decided to expand or relocate into it's parking lot or strip malls near it.

What are we going to do with all the empty buildings? They're useless - hard to get to, hard to heat, hard to cool, not really at human scale at all.

katecontinued said...

I used to fantasize about converting these structures to indoor farming - hydroponic, aquaponics, greenhouse, etc. It seemed like a second life food use in the cold climates at least. Parking lots could be the place where food stalls and other local enterprises could meet, mingle, barter or otherwise engage.

They could also be a kind of refuge for the homeless on the move.

Now . . . I don't have any idea anymore. And your examples remind me that my visions were within urban areas - the suburban and rural areas are just too far from people to accommodate these ideas.

Hope you all are doing well,

Rosa said...

i have a hydroponic farm fantasy too, but it's for parking garages ;)

We're doing really well. I kind of put everything on hold the last three weeks because we had a big family party at our house with all three sets of grandparents and all Mica's cousins, and so the whole house had to be cleaned and a bunch of half-finished projects finished. Now it's all done!

Hope you're doing well, too.

daharja said...

But chain stores are GOOOOOOOOOD. They sell cheap foreign products. And that *must* be good for the economy, right? Right?

(do you think I'm overdoing the cynicism?)

katecontinued said...

Rosa, I have had a whole half year on hold - or a big gap between saying and doing. Finally a feels like it is closing a bit. I have a few days of cleaning and reorganizing for guests. It will give me a great reason to mobilize. I envy the fact that you have the satisfaction of having completed your projects and cleaning.

You had me going, daharja, because the moderation dialog box only showed the first phrase and your name. I thought, huh? . . . and quickly opened the post for your full comment. But, yes . . . we have been trained to think price is all. Oh, and I remember reading NYT architecture critic's, Paul Golberger's, argument that good taste in design or quality of life is now available to all - how democratic thanks to the big box stores - and I would nod in agreement.