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Residents to mayor: Give us Wal-Mart

Residents to mayor: Give us Wal-Mart

By Thomas Grillo and Ira Kantor  |   Monday, July 11, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com |  Local Coverage

Robin Gibbons, 52, of South Boston, says she wants to see a Wal-Mart in Roxbury.
Photo by Kelvin Ma

Mayor Thomas M. Menino may be reluctant to roll out the welcome mat for Wal-Mart, but some Boston residents say they want the jobs and low-priced goods.

“It would be great for me,” said Robin Gibbons, 52, of South Boston, who lives on a fixed income. “I’d rather go to a local Wal-Mart than the nearest one in Quincy. I think it would be good in that more people would be working.”

The battle over bringing a Wal-Mart to the city is heating up. On one side are Menino and activists who have criticized the retail giant’s wages and benefits, while on the other side are city residents who insist the mayor should bring Wal-Mart — and its jobs and rock-bottom prices — to Boston.

Menino could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Massachusetts, ratcheted up the debate last week when he told the Boston Business Journal the city should “embrace a project that would bring jobs for residents.” Williams could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But Horace Small, executive director the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, an advocacy group in Jamaica Plain, countered, “I understand that the black community has been decimated by double-digit unemployment, but we should not settle for just any jobs.”

Wal-Mart has said the Bentonville, Ark.-based company is looking in Boston to build its Neighborhood Market store. At about 42,000 square feet, the store would be a quarter the size of the typical SuperCenter. Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, could not be reached yesterday, but has told the Herald that the firm is having conversations with elected officials and business groups “in an effort to better understand the unique challenges facing Boston and how we can work together toward solutions.” He declined to identify specific city locations.

City Councilor Michael Ross said he is open to the idea of locating a Wal-Mart in Boston. He said the corporate giant is trying to change its image as a low-wage, no benefits, employer.

“They should be given the opportunity to make their case,” Ross said.

State Rep. Martin Walsh, a Dorchester Democrat, and general agent for the Boston Building Trades Council, said Wal-Mart should be heard.

“If they’re willing to negotiate, that’s a starting place, and I would be willing to have that conversation,” Walsh said. “People want the opportunity to buy groceries and household items at a lower cost.”

In Dudley Square, Roxbury resident Monique Henderson said a Wal-Mart would be a boost to the neighborhood. “It would be nice to have it here,” she said. “There are lots of people looking for jobs so that would help out.”

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1350977


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