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Posted by on September 27, 2012.

Guest column: Walmart benefits communities and their residents

Greg Sullivan is senior vice president for the southeast region of Walmart.

Editor’s note: In light of the controversy surrounding a proposed Walmart near the Lindbergh MARTA station in Buckhead, the Buckhead Reporter invited company officials to write a column discussing the company’s plans. The company responded with this column written by Greg Sullivan, senior vice president for the southeast region of Walmart.

While much has been written in recent weeks about the proposed Lindbergh Center development, there has been little discussion of the development’s many benefits to the community. We at Walmart believe it’s important to expand the dialogue.

With the spotlight on Walmart’s part of the proposed project, little attention has been given to the other amenities the development would add to the community:  multifamily housing, retail shopping, a three-acre park and a connection to the Atlanta Beltline from the planned Buckhead trail. These features should make the Lindbergh Center project a welcome addition to the area that fits comfortably with community guidelines – guidelines Walmart respects and which we and the developer have taken steps to meet.

Another key benefit seldom mentioned but essential for every community, is the economic boost the project will provide. The new Lindbergh Center will create approximately 600 new jobs – something we believe is critical to a city whose unemployment rate continues to hover around 9 percent – while also helping to grow investment and sales tax revenue. We have seen economic benefits such as these in every community where we’ve opened a store. Over the past six years, we have built nine Walmart stores in Atlanta that have provided more than 2,000 local jobs.

In addition, it is clear that many in the Piedmont and Lindbergh area of Buckhead who have not been vocal in the debate will greatly benefit from a nearby grocery store.  Although the Lindbergh store will be smaller than many of our supercenters to better align with the community, we will offer the same variety of affordable food and consumables. The Lindbergh Walmart will provide local residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, to-go meals, a bakery and deli, as well as a low-cost pharmacy and a wide selection of health-related products and other merchandise.

The fact is, when we construct a new store, Walmart works with local leaders, elected officials and others to design and build a store that is reflective of the community. Our Howell Mill store is a great example of this partnership. The Howell Mill development was originally supposed to house a different large box retailer, but none would adapt their model to fit the design. We at Walmart worked with the city and the neighborhood, modified our plans to fit the space and the store has been very popular. It has even spurred economic revitalization on the corner of Howell Mill and Interstate 75. A Walmart in the Lindbergh community should be equally popular with customers.

Finally, it’s important to remember that Walmart has been serving customers in Georgia for 30 years – and in Atlanta for 20. Over these decades, our company has generated tens of thousands of jobs, generated significant tax revenue for important community needs, and donated millions of dollars to state and local organizations and programs. In fact, since 2009 Walmart has donated more than $13 million to worthwhile causes throughout Georgia including the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta St. Vincent de Paul food bank, Zoo Atlanta and Woodruff Arts Center. Walmart, above all, is a good neighbor.

We are proud to be a member of the community in so many parts of Georgia, and welcome the opportunity to be part of the Buckhead community.

Greg Sullivan is senior vice president for the southeast region of Walmart. He is responsible for operations at more than 300 stores with approximately 117,000 associates in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Walmart moved its business unit office to Atlanta more than two years ago and it added 75 corporate jobs to the local economy. The move showed Walmart’s commitment to Atlanta, as the hub of the Southeast. Greg lives in the greater Atlanta area with his wife and two kids.

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