Walmart says two new stores will pump $6 million annually into local economy

Walmart says it will generate nearly $6 million of annual spending in the local economy through the creation of 132 full-time jobs at its two planned Bellevue locations, according to a new study.

The study, commissioned by Walmart and conducted by Hebert Research, said the increased income for these employees, along with indirect spending from the stores buying merchandise from suppliers, creates this increased economic opportunity.

In 2010, Bellevue had a total taxable retail sales figure of $4.03 billion, nearly 5 percent of receipts for the state.

The study also examines, the "economic leakage" in Bellevue by ZIP code - that is how much money from each part of town is spent elsewhere. Holes in the zip codes near Kelsey Creek and Factoria – Walmart's Bellevue locations – suggest that those residents are heading south to Renton, or elsewhere, to fulfill some of their grocery needs, Walmart representatives said.

The stores will be smaller than the normal footprints to fit Bellevue's guidelines and identity. The Kelsey Creek store will be a Neighborhood Market that focuses exclusively on groceries, while the Factoria location will be a smaller version of the SuperCenter model.

Walmart officials said the retailer chose the two locations - the vacated Mervyn's site at Factoria, and the empty Kmart in Kelsey Creek – to try and restore formerly vibrant areas.

"They're going to turn them back into the retail magnets they were 10 years ago, and that's good for everyone around us," said Jennifer Spall, director of public affairs for Walmart.

The parameters of the study were limited, examining only the direct employment and the increased spending by these employees. It does not touch on the potential impact to employment of surrounding, competing businesses. It also does not look at some of the tradeoffs to bringing in a large retail outlet, such as increased traffic.

Some past studies nationally see the stores as a boon to the local economy, while others claim nearby retailers see fewer sales when the stores move in.

Walmart's coming arrival in Bellevue has brought some concerns, the most vocal of which being grocer's union UFCW 21. They worry that, while the store will bring jobs, they won't be good jobs. Elena Perez, community organizer for UFCW 21, said the study does not tell the entire story of the impact Walmart has on a community.

"People aren't buying more food tomorrow than they are today," she said. "It's a transition. Where is that transition coming from, and going to, and what types of jobs are these Walmart stores replacing?"

Spall said Walmart officials have met with nearby neighborhood groups and the City Council to hear their concerns.

Spall said the claims that Walmart puts people out of business are incorrect. Many types of stores thrive in the shadow of the retail giant. Restaurants and specialty shops tend to find great success, she said.

"If we don't carry something - and we carry just a little bit of everything - we like to point people to local retailers where they can get it," she said.

Nearby property owners are already seeing increased demand for spots near the new stores. Brian Franklin, executive vice president at PMF Investments, the company that has headed the Kelsey Creek redevelopment, said he has signed several new tenants, and negotiating with another seven to come to the new center.

"Since the announcement of Walmart and LA Fitness (a few months before that), we have seen tremendous interest from new tenants and great excitement from existing ones," he said

The two new stores are expected to begin hiring soon. A hiring center for the Kelsey Creek store is likely to open in April or May, while the Factoria store may begin hiring in August, Spall said.

Bellevue Study -

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