The 2011 flooding of the Souris river in Minot, which bisects the city from east to west, made it clear to the community that far too much of the city’s commerce is focused on the south end of town. During flooding, those living in the north part of town had few choices for stores selling groceries and other necessities.
So it’s not surprising that in the wake of the flood several retailers have made the effort to move to the northern part of the city. Marketplace Foods, which owns pretty much every grocery store in town, was one of the first. Walmart is now trying to follow, but their bid to develop a piece of land along the Highway 83 bypass has met flames of resistance fanned, as I noted in a previous post, by the folks from Marketplace Foods.
The motivations of the folks at Marketplace are obvious. The new Walmart location would be located just a few blocks to the west of their new location in North Minot, and they don’t want the nation’s largest retailer that close. Walmart always attracts droves of eager shoppers, but the company usually inspires lots of bellyaching from vocal minorities in the community as well.
Marketplace Foods and other Walmart opponents have tapped into that angst, and a minority of Minot City Council members almost large enough to stop the development have come out in opposition.
The final vote will happen at the council meeting on Monday at 6:30pm. One council member tells me the vote right now stands at 5-8. If they fall short of 8 votes, approval for the development fails.
I don’t usually write about such hyper-local issues, but the debate in the community over the Walmart development has been fascinating to watch. It’s been littered with noisy demands that “we” build schools or roads or some other priority instead of a new Walmart, as if Walmart stores were built by the government and not a private company (examples here). It’s also seen city leaders talk about being “picky” about which businesses they allow into the community, as if it were their job to make aesthetic choices about what companies do businesses in the city instead of simply applying laws to a given bid for development.
It has really exposed an ugly side of local politics, one littered with public ignorance and political arrogance, and I truly hope the outcome is to let the development move forward.