A Small Southern Town’s Fight Against Big Business

A small southern town is being challenged by the prospect of the corporate giant, Walmart, opening a store in town, which has caused much protest and dispute among citizens.

Water Valley Mississippi : population 3,700. Water Valley is a town with a story of triumph. Until recently, it was a dreary town that needed saving. Back in 2010, Alexe van Bueren, owner of B.T.C.O old fashioned grocery, started up her business in order to bring the small town feel back to Water Valley.

The first news of a Walmart opening popped up on social media, then made it to the press. Although, it has not been officially confirmed that Walmart will be in fact opening, there are rumors of the chain store being placed near the hospital in Water Valley. However, the real story comes from the reactions of citizens.

As soon as news starting circulating that Walmart could be coming to Water Valley, several forms of backlash starting to arise, mainly coming from citizens. One form of protest in particular is a Facebook page entitled, “Long Live Water Valley,” that came about on April 14th. The first post urged citizens to write to the local paper, and save their small town from becoming crushed from the corporate giant.

The man behind the page is Mr. Mickey Howley. He is an advocate against Walmart, Director of the Water Valley Main Street association, and has had a piece on the topic published in the North Mississippi Herald.

“Pretty much ruined every town this small—destroys commerce in the center of town–and all the small businesses that make a town vibrant and nice place to live,” Howley said of Walmart.

Mr. Howley has lived in small towns for almost 20 years. He has worked to not return Water Valley to it’s past, per say, but to it’s small town charm while still heading into the future, and keeping local business thriving.

“Kiss your nice downtown goodbye! Hope that money you save makes up for the real estate value loss,” he said, if a Walmart will officially open in town.

There have been various instances that illustrate how Mr. Howley’s statement has come true for many small towns.  Recently, a Walmart express has tried to move into Merkel, Texas.  In a story by the Huffington post, there was proof that many small town officials do not heed to the proper steps of opening a business when corporate giants come in to play.  Citizens of Water Valley may have this prospect to fear in their own small town.

According to a piece by Salon, a hundred dollars to a local business gives the local economy one third more of a benefit, as well as one third more jobs than a national one.  There have been studies of this, proving a Walmart in small town will hinder, and not help.  A Walmart Express is equally as crushing as a full sized store.

The prospect of a Walmart opening up in town may be further away from reality than expected. The North Mississippi Herald reported that executives from Walmart cancelled their appearance the afternoon of a planning commission meeting April, 12. The company gave the town not explanation as to why they did not show.

The corporate giant Walmart has been contacted for this piece, yet they have given no comment on the new store opening in Water Valley. There has yet to be any official confirmation of the companies establishment in Water Valley.

Many citizens and businesses are most certainly relieved by this delay, although they do want definite answers from the company eventually.

Ms. van Bueren has be an important advocate against Walmart coming into Water Valley. As a local merchant, she worries about business moving from a small town focus to a large scale scene.

“…this tale we’ve been telling the world: the good life in a small town with mom-and-pop businesses– will cease to be true,” van Bueren wrote on the B.T.C Old Fashioned Grocery Facebook page.

Currently, there are 4,205 Walmart stores in the United States alone. This is not including Sam’s Club locations.In 2014, Walmart has had $476.29 billion in sales and revenue. They are in the top three earning companies in the United States.

Many citizens believe that Water Valley will only suffer from a giant such as this company. If the chain store is to open in Water Valley, citizen’s believe there will be no gain from it. Ms. van Bueren believes any jobs created will not be good ones.

Mr. Howley’s piece published in the North Mississippi Herald also prompted some thoughts about Walmart’s impending arrival. He believes that the company has not thought one bit about the effect it will have on Water Valley. Walmart is only thinking about their own commercial gains.

“We’re part of their new profit plan. Their profit, not ours,” said Howley in his piece.

Not many people have been for the addition of a Walmart in Water Valley. Editors at the North Mississippi Herald have been swamped with letters regarding the issue. They’ve asked specifically for letters in favor of the company’s arrival in the community. They have not received many.

Yet there is a small group of Water Valley citizen’s who have spoken up in the company’s favor.

“I am all for our town growing and I would vote for a Walmart to come to town, I think it just might put our little town on the map… God Bless our small town,” said citizen Virhinia Weaver.

Some citizens believe it is time for a change in the community. They want their town to move into the future and not be stuck forever in an un-advanced past. They believe it is time to have more convenience for their shopping, and that there is more than the downtown area. They want their town to become one of importance.

Yet it has been a constant struggle between the two groups of citizens. One group wants to push Water Valley into the future with the addition of Walmart. On the other hand, this is going against every thing the other group of citizens has been working towards. They are trying to keep Water Valley an old fashioned small town.

Only time will tell if the citizens protests against the corporate giant will be effective. Perhaps the company will be no match for the heart that comes from a small southern town like Water Valley.