Friday, April 21, 2006

Wal-Mart hones in on another Suisun City site

From Daily Republic
By Nathan Halverson

SUISUN CITY - Wal-Mart announced it has staked a new claim in Suisun City, which caught some city officials off guard.

The retail giant is working with a developer to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the northwest corner of Walters Road and Highway 12.

The Walters Road location is about two miles from the Gentry project site at Pennsylvania Avenue and Highway 12, where Wal-Mart previously expressed interest in building a super center.

But Suisun City mayor Jim Spering is cautious about the new Wal-Mart proposal.

"To my understanding, there is no application into the city, so I'm not quite sure what their intent is," he said. "I don't know if this is going to be the same situation as over at the Gentry site."

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said the retailer was committed to Suisun City and was working with a developer on the Walters Road and Highway 12 site, which is a 21-acre parcel.

Spering said he is concerned Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is playing Suisun City against Fairfield - where Wal-Mart is also developing a 210,000-square-foot super center.

He called for a meeting between the two cities' top politicians and staff to discuss Wal-Mart.

A Fairfield report concluded that if two Wal-Marts were built, one in Fairfield and one in Suisun City, a significant number of smaller retailers could be forced out of business - although that report assumed the Suisun City Wal-Mart would be located at the Gentry site.

Both cities fear losing the sales tax revenue that a Wal-Mart generates to their neighboring city. The existing Wal-Mart is in Fairfield.

Suisun City officials have long coveted a large retailer such as Wal-Mart that would help generate revenue for the city, which suffers from low sales tax revenue. In 2004, Suisun City generated $815,591 in total sales tax revenue. A new Supercenter would nearly double that number, according to Wal-Mart.

Spering worries Wal-Mart might be taking advantage of Suisun City's financial woes.

"I don't know if what they are doing is sincere," he said. "I hope our two cities, Suisun City and Fairfield, are smart enough to work together and not be used by Wal-Mart."

Spering said he would instruct Suisun City manager Suzanne Bragdon to contact Fairfield City Manager Kevin O'Rourke and set up a meeting of city officials, including planning and economic staff and at least the city mayors.

Fairfield city councilmember Jack Batson said he wasn't sure what they would talk about, but talking was always good. Batson said he understood Spering's concern that Wal-Mart might be playing the cities against each other.

"We've all wondered about that," Batson said.

Yet Batson said a meeting between the two cities' staff, such as between planning and economic development staff, would be better than a meeting of politicians.

Spering said Fairfield is often not concerned with Suisun City.

"The big dog in the kennel is Fairfield," he said. "I just don't see Fairfield being too concerned with Suisun City's plight, but I hope there will be some concern."

Fairfield mayor Harry Price was unavailable to comment about Spering's proposal, but earlier in the day he said he would pay very close attention to both Wal-Mart proposals.

"I get e-mails all the time and people on the street commenting about Wal-Mart," he said. "I'm trying to keep a very open mind, so I listen to everything."

Suisun City public information officer Scott Corey said the Wal-Mart announcement could be a boon for his city. The city would not only capture sales tax revenue from the Wal-Mart if it is built, but it would also collect revenue from the Gentry project, which is still moving forward.

"Instead of one Super Wal-Mart at the Gentry site, we end up with two smaller big box retailers (at that site)," he said. "And we are looking to capture sales tax."

Suisun City will initiate an Economic Impact Review once Wal-Mart files plans with the city for the site at Highway 12 and Walters Road. The impact report will take about eight to nine to complete, according to Wal-Mart and city officials.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

No comments: