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May 3, 2007

WalMart

By Natalie Bervig

The small town of Park Rapids, Minn. will soon be the home of a Super WalMart leaving some downtown business owners worried about a decline in sales.
The store, which has generated sometimes-heated discussion at City Council meetings since last November, will hold its grand opening on Wednesday, March 14.
Most businesses in Park Rapids are locally owned and operated and owners worry that they will not be able to compete with WalMart’s low prices and will lose their regular customers.
Mayor Nancy Carroll explained that cities have developmental tools at their disposal such as tax breaks, or offers to pay for sewer and water in efforts to bring in businesses like WalMart to their town.
“Here in Park Rapids we did not do anything, but WalMart still wanted to come,? Carroll said.
Although owners are concerned about losing business, many of them are members of the Park Rapids Business Association, which will work to plan events and activities to draw people to shop downtown.
Carroll is looking at the positives.
“People from Park Rapids used to have to drive to Bemidji, Minn. to go to WalMart. I hope that having a WalMart in town will at least keep home shoppers at home, and maybe bring people from other small towns to shop and while they are here, maybe they will stop at our liquor store too.?
WalMart will open for business Wednesday.

Growing up in the small town of Park Rapids the addition of a WalMart is a very big deal to our community. A majority of our businesses are locally owned and operated and so there is a fear in many residents that the WalMart is going to put our grocery stores, hardware stores etc out of business. Unless you come from a community like this I think it is hard to understand just how much of an impact it will have on the economy of small town. I guess I wanted to see what people felt about the new arrival, and what they wanted to do about it. To get my information I walked around downtown and talked to business owners. I also called up the mayor and she willingly spoke with me. I was only there for a weekend and so I did not get as much information as I would have liked. I didn't recieve some emails from members of the downtown business association until after the story was due. If I would have been in Park Rapids the whole time I think I would have gotten much more detail and better information. I think my biggest challenge in writing this story was trying to get a message out to the audience I would have been writing for. When we looked at my story in class everyone seemed to think it was funny. Like I said before, it is hard for people to understand that a WalMart coming to a town with a population of 3000 is a pretty big deal unless they are familiar with a town of that size. It is going to change people's lives. So I was challenged in writing the story because I was writing it through the eyes of people who live in Park Rapids, while people who read it here didn't fully understand it. I think some pictures of the store and of the ribbon cutting ceremony would have been an addition to this story. I also think taking pictures of the locally owned stores downtown would have been a way to personalize the story and tell it from the view of the owners. I would have really liked to have more time to sit and talk with them and get a better vision of how the new WalMart will affect their business, and therefore their lives. Even audio interviews would be helpful to be able to show the emotion in people's voice when they talk about this stuff. You can hear in someones voice when they are concerned or passionate etc. I also would have liked to talk with some of the people who live in the city that come to Park Rapids every summer. Since we are not on peak tourist time, there were none around, but last summer when I heard people who were staying at their lake homes talking about it, they were very unhappy about the idea of a WalMart coming to Park Rapids. I think that they would have added an interesting angle to the story.