Reporter Ed Pilkington points out in the Guardian that much has been written about what happens when Walmart opens a store in a particular community. Less so about what happens when Walmart closes a store. Thus, he digs into the consequences for rural McDowell County in West Virginia, where the chain opened a supercenter in 2005 and shut it down as part of a corporate restructuring a decade later. It wasn’t pretty. Over the decade the store was in operation, locals came to rely on it for jobs, tax revenue, spinoff business for local operations such as nearby restaurants, and something more intangible—a sense of community for far-flung county residents. “If you were lonely and had nothing to do, you’d go to Walmart to talk to folk,” says one widower. “It was a great social network.”
But more pressing is the new scarcity of easily accessible fresh food. About the best locals can do, short of growing their own, is to drive about an hour to the next nearest Walmart. McDowell County is in coal country, and one jarring stat speaks volumes: Of the nation’s 3,142 counties, it ranks No. 3,142 in terms of life expectancy. Its male residents can expect to live 64 years. Walmart provided some much-needed relief in ways big and small before leaving town for good. A spokesperson tells Pilkington that factors in the decision to close included “financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans,” and he writes that other rural areas are in the same boat, or will be soon. The issue “is gathering increasing urgency as the megacorporation rethinks its business strategy,” he writes. Click for the full story.