By Pat Maurer
Walmart is planning to open a 158,000 square foot Super Center in Clare in early 2016, according to information released earlier by Clare City Manager Ken Hibl.
In a telephone interview late last week, Bill Wertz, Media Communications Director, said the new Walmart complex will be located on the corner of Old U.S. 27 and Colonville Road on property recently annexed by the City and now zoned commercial.
The City is developing a 60-acre industrial park further east on Colonville Road. Road improvements are planned and Construction on the park and a new city water tower is expected to begin this month.
Walmart has a purchase agreement for 18 acres of the former Bicknell property on Colonville Road, according to property owner Ron Kunse of the Clare Northern Group. Kunse said he does not have a date yet for the closing on the property.
Hibl said, “They indicated they wish to commence construction in 2015 with a tentative store opening date of early 2016.”
Wertz said there is no site plan yet for the complex. “It takes about one year to build,” he said. The Clare Walmart will include a fuel station, pharmacy, garden center and a tire and lube express.
He said the new store will employ about 300 “associates,” most full time. “More than half will be full time,” he said.
Applications are available online or at existing Walmart stores. “In about six months we will be setting up a hiring station locally,” Wertz added. He said he didn’t know what the local pay scale will be, but added that the average wage in Michigan is $12.93 per hour and that benefits are available to both full and part-time employees.
There has been some opposition to a Walmart in Clare.
At the Clare City meeting Tuesday evening, former City Mayor Al Demarest quoted excerpts from a column by Review Editor Mike Wilcox August 15, (Downtown Clare is flourishing) including one, “I truly believe Walmart and the many offshoots have ruined many downtowns…”
Demarest listed times that Walmart has shown interest in locating a store in Clare. “In the 1990s they first looked at Clare. There was a lot of opposition at a town hall meeting. In 2007, they took out a permit to build a store on Colonville Road, but didn’t use it.” He added, “Look what happened in Bad Axe. When they located there, half of the downtown closed.”
On the other side of the controversy was an email received at the city from resident Patricia Snyder which read, “As a resident of Clare for most of my 60 years, [I] just want to express my opinion about the possibility of a Walmart. I haven’t seen much change in this city. We still don’t have anything for our teens to do; we don’t have jobs for them other than fast food. This city has always catered to the few that have businesses on main street and kept the city focus on growing their own businesses and keeping the poor in their own section of the town. This extremely white retirement community needs a Walmart for so many reasons! What we have been doing for the growth of our city is NOT working.”
She signed the email, “Tired of driving to Mt. Pleasant just to buy everyday necessities and employment.”
City resident Al Iacco, former Clare Mayor and former Mt. Pleasant business owner, said there was the same type of controversy when Meijer came to Mt. Pleasant. “Only two small businesses closed,” he said. “I think they panicked. Other stores, including mine, saw their business double or even triple because of more people coming to town. Now even with several ‘big box stores,’ the city is thriving.”
Hibl said Walmart representatives have planned a public open house in Clare outlining the project in late September or early October and will be presenting a site plan to the Clare Planning Commission in October.