Walmart to open May 18

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The East Albany Walmart, the city's biggest economic boon in years, will open May 18, showcasing a brand new store and at least 200 new jobs.

Katie Macaluso, a media consultant hired by Wal-Mart East Inc. said Wednesday the store is almost ready to open and that a total of 275 associates -- including 200 new employees -- are currently working to get the merchandise on the shelves before the grand opening on May 18.

The company continues to hire new full-time and part-time employees. Those interested can apply at http://walmartstores.com/Careers.

Ordinarily the opening of a giant retail chain store wouldn't make lead headlines, but as Albany Mayor Willie Adams says, "These aren't ordinary times."

Both he and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff "Bodine" Sinyard, have praised the Bentonville, Ark., based retailer for its decision to build the store in one of the county's most economically depressed areas.

The hope from both men is that the store will be the catalyst for other development, not only in that part of East Albany, but throughout Dougherty County.

Tuesday, the Albany City Commission tentatively approved Walmart's request for a retail alcohol license for the store, 6-1, which signals the store is close to opening.

The building has been touted by Wal-Mart as being one of the first to incorporate new design elements and eco-friendly construction features into the site plan.

"Customers will experience the next generation of Walmart Stores, including a new layout, wider aisles, low-profile shelving, bright interior paint scheme, enhanced lighting and easy-to-read signage," Macaluso said.

But not all are thrilled about about the store opening.

At albanyherald.com, some readers have commented about the supposed "Wal-Mart Effect" that occurs when the stores move into a community and, roughly in 10 to 12 years move out, leaving massive buildings to fill and adding hundreds to the unemployment line.

Residents in Tifton have just recently found tenants for a Walmart complex that was shuttered nearly eight years ago when the store decided to leave its location on Virginia Avenue and build a larger store on U.S. Highway 82.

The building left behind was used as a temporary home for the county's public library while renovations to its downtown location were completed.

Still, local officials have leveraged a lot to convince the world's largest retailer to move into the area. The city of Albany, the Dougherty County School System and the Dougherty County Commission have all given up any direct claim to the property tax revenue the store will generate by incorporating it into the the Tax Allocation District.

By doing so, the increase in value on the property and its resulting taxes will go into a fund controlled by a TAD Advisory Council, a group of appointees selected by government officials who will spend the funds on projects within the TAD, which mostly contains 1,000 parcels in the downtown area and along a corridor down Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Walmart is also eligible for a series of payroll tax credits because its located in the military zone -- a special area created by state economic development officials to promote growth around military bases.