Havre Daily News
The world's biggest retailer will build in Havre next year.
Landowner Ron Harmon said today that mammoth retail chain Wal-Mart purchased land just west of Kmart from him on Friday.
The sale left some members of the Havre business community with mixed emotions.
“I think there's some plus and minus to it,” Tire-Rama manager Robin Toner said. “It should bring more people in. I have some real concerns on what it's going to do to downtown businesses. And I want to see what they're going to put back into the community.
“I want to see what Wal-Mart donates,” Toner added. “If the community supports them, are they going to support it back?”
Havre Area Chamber of Commerce president Denise Ladenburg said today the chamber has taken a “neutral” stance on the chain's arrival in Havre. She said she's heard from business owners on both sides of the fence.
“I've heard mixed emotions,” Ladenburg said. “Every town experiences that. I've heard ‘competition's good.' I've heard they'll ruin our small- business climate.”
Wal-Mart will construct a 105,000-square-foot supercenter on the about 12-acre site next year, Harmon said. He would not discuss specifics of the sale.
Harmon said Wal-Mart will soon select a general contractor. The construction timeline is dependent on the weather, and he said he's heard from some Wal-Mart officials that the store may not open until early 2007.
“I'm sure they'll get it done as quickly as possible,” Harmon said.
Wal-Mart spokesman Ryan Horn said last week the planned store will house a full-service grocery store with dry goods and fresh produce, a garden center, a tire and lube shop and a gas station. Company officials have said the store will employ about 275 people, with 60 percent of those working full time.
Wal-Mart officials could not be reached for comment today.
Toner said Wal-Mart will likely cut down on his retail sales to owners of personal vehicles but won't have an impact on his commercial and agricultural sales. He also said he'll be able to compete because he offers better customer service than Wal-Mart.
Candy Bouquet owner Wendy Gerky said she isn't worried about Wal-Mart hurting her business because the retail giant doesn't carry the items she assembles.
She said Wal-Mart will be good for Havre in the long run.
“I think once we get past the growing pains of it being here, it'll bring in business,” she said. “I think we'll keep more (shoppers) here.”
Havre City Council member Terry Schend, who last spring raised the issue of annexing land west of Havre into the city, said the city is studying the potential costs and revenues associated with those parcels, including the Wal-Mart property.
“The city is still in a fact-finding mode to see what it's going to cost, the expense versus the revenue,” he said today. “If it's going to be a negative number, it's going to be a very hard sell. We want to make sure we do it the most cost-effective way, and get it done right the first time.”
Schend said Wal-Mart's arrival in Havre will have both positive and negative effects. He noted the negative impacts Wal-Mart can have on a community have been thoroughly documented, but he said some communities have benefitted.
“We'll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out,” Schend said.
Havre shoppers have also expressed mixed emotions about the store, with some saying it will be a relief to have a Wal-Mart so close and others worrying about the supercenter's effect on Havre's downtown.
Harmon said the majority of the reaction he's heard has been positive.
“They feel the Wal-Mart project will ... bring in more people to the Havre area, which all businesses will be able to benefit from,” Harmon said. “We have a lot of people on the Hi-Line that go to Great Falls for their shopping. I think the Wal-Mart project will be one reason to keep those people coming this direction.
“It's good to see Havre grow, with a lot of activity at the moment,” Harmon added.
Harmon said the company will likely select a general contractor from outside of the area, but will use some local labor to help construct the store.
“They try to use as many of the subcontractors as possible from the local area,” he said. “That's my understanding.”
He said both he and Wal-Mart officials had hoped to close the deal during the summer, but some changes had to be made before the land could be subdivided and sold. The Hill County Commission, County Health Deparment and city-county planning board asked that a road easement be added to the property, allowing for an access road to be extended behind Wal-Mart and Kmart. A drainage easement also was added to allow runoff to drain between the stores toward U.S. Highway 2. Also, plans needed to be made to move water and sewer lines, Harmon said.
The Hill County commissioners unanimously approved the final subdivision plan last Monday.