I recently wrote about how Wal-Mart plans to expand its reach in Chicago in a big way (30 new stores big). Politicians around the country consistently like to be heard saying how one way the store(s) will benefit the city is the additional tax revenue the city will see from property and sales tax contributions. Here are selected quotes from Chicagoans:
On Tuesday, [Chicago Mayor] Daley noted that a Wal-Mart expansion would pave the way for sales tax windfall for the cash-starved city budget.
In suburban Cook County, about 20 percent to 30 percent of all sales tax revenue comes from Wal-Marts, Daley said.
“Everyone realizes we need the tax revenue,” [Alderman Anthony] Beale [9th Ward] said.
Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, a pro-union alderman, lamented Wal-Martâ€™s domination of the nationâ€™s retail market and its tendency to sell foreign-made products, but voted for Pullman Park because of the need for jobs and additional tax revenue.
Comparatively, Wal-Mart brings in little property tax revenue on a per acre basis, according to a study fromÂ Sarasota County (Florida) and Public Interest Projects and posted by Citiwire. I’ve summarized their findings:
- Single-family home: $8,200 per acre
- Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club: $150.00-$200.00 per acre
- Southgate Mall: $22,000 per acre
- High-rise mixed-use project in downtown Sarasota: $800,000
That last one’s the kicker! From the Citiwire article, “‘It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,’ [Peter] Katz noted.” Read the full story for more examples and for more discussion on how this specific breakdown of costs and benefits is only one way to look at fiscal and retail impact.
If the same tax revenues were true for Chicago or Cook County (and I can’t say it is or isn’t), then the city planners and aldermen should be seeking developers to build high-rise mixed-use projects. Right.
But the issue Chicago and other cities have is that Wal-Mart is one of the most willing developers – they will build where no one else will. They have capital that no one else has. They have the resources to sway the population. It’s more politically difficult to resist such a willing partner like Wal-Mart than it is to seek relationships with developers who have the resources to create more beneficial mixed-use projects in the neighborhoods Wal-Mart seems to prefer.