I was disturbed to read about the recent building spree of national chain stores in Augusta (“Augusta sees influx of new retailers, restaurants,” April 25).
I believe it is time for a chain store moratorium to be enacted throughout Maine.
National chain stores harm Maine’s economy. In 2011, the Maine Center For Economic Policy found that for every $100 spent at a chain store, only $33 remained in the local economy. In stark contrast, spending $100 at an independent store yielded $58 in community revenue. Major chain stores such as Walmart have invested heavily in foreign economies at the loss to American manufacturers. In 2006, Walmart alone invested $27 billion in procuring Chinese-produced goods.
The expansion of chain stores expands the welfare state. The low wage culture of the service economy has left millions of working class Americans relying on food stamps and other government programs. For example, Wisconsin taxpayers pay an average of $900,000 annually in welfare benefits for each Walmart store annually. Low wages means folks do not climb out from their economic doldrums. It’s a far cry from our manufacturing golden era.
And finally, chain stores destroy the unique character of Maine. Every major town has a Walmart in a major commercial plaza and a McDonald’s on every corner. Southern Maine is taking on the bland urban sprawl of eastern Massachusetts. Do we want to be “Maine, the Way Life Should Be,” or “Maine, Just Like Everybody Else”?
Destroying the unique identity of Maine is bad business model. Our state desperately needs growth, but we should support the right kind of growth. We could build 10,000 chain stores tomorrow, and still our state would struggle economically.
Let’s start a dialogue about how to revive our goods-producing sector.