Wal-Mart to the Rescue? Retail Giant Announces Plan to Target Areas in Need

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) announced Monday its plans for nine stores in areas in need of economic revitalization and said it will use those stores to help other businesses in the area develop.

Wal-Mart Vice Chairman John Menzer, who heads the company's U.S. operation, was traveling to Indianapolis and Pittsburgh to announce that the company is moving into neighborhoods in each of those cities where commerce has faltered.

Menzer said Wal-Mart is working with local chambers of commerce, business groups and minority-owned businesses with the goal of guiding new suppliers and helping new or existing shops thrive.

"We're looking at working families that need us the most," Menzer said. "That's where we want to go."

As jobs are created around the new Wal-Mart stores, tax revenue will rise and the neighborhood economy will improve, Menzer said. Two of the stores are already open — in Chicago and Portsmouth, Va.

In April, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott said the company planned to build 50 stores in areas with high crime or high unemployment. At the store on Chicago's west side and at the nine identified Monday, Wal-Mart will offer advertising to the other businesses in local newspapers and through the in-house audio feed in Wal-Mart stores.

At each of the 10 stores, five small businesses will be picked each quarter for the special treatment, the ultimate focus of which will be "how to take advantage of having a Wal-Mart in your market," Menzer said.

Near the Chicago store — the first in the city limits for the retail giant — Menzer said a number of new businesses are under development nearby, including a coffee shop, a drug store and a home improvement center.

"It could be any type of small business in the area that would draw on our traffic," Menzer said.

The Lafayette Square site in Indianapolis is to get a Supercenter, which is planned to open next year. A Supercenter combines a Wal-Mart discount store with a grocery store. A Supercenter is also planned for the site near Pittsburgh, at East Hills, Pa. The company said a religious group had urged new businesses to come into a former mall site. The new Wal-Mart there is to open in 2009.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell was to be on hand at the Pittsburgh announcement and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was scheduled to be at the Indianapolis location.

Other stores announced Monday:

_Cleveland — a Supercenter is to open in the fall at the site of a former steelyard. Other retailers are to have storefronts in the development.

_Decatur, Ga. — the community outside of Atlanta is to get a Supercenter in early 2008 at the site of a former mall.

_El Mirage, Ariz. — a Supercenter is to open during the summer near Luke Air Force Base.

_Landover Hills, Md. — is to be the site of the first Wal-Mart store to open inside the beltway of Washington, D.C. The store will be in Prince George's County at the former Capital Plaza Shopping Center.

_Portsmouth, Va. — a Supercenter opened last month in the city's midtown at an area targeted for redevelopment.

_Richmond, Calif. — a Wal-Mart is to open in the spring at a former department store location in the Bay Area community.

_Sanger, Calif. — A Supercenter is to open in the spring at a former commercial building in the community near Fresno.