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My View: Walmart proved to be a good neighbor

Corporation has improved community's livability


A few years ago when I heard Walmart was coming to my neighborhood, I’ll admit I had reservations. Like many, I had noticed the headlines over the years about how some communities reacted to a new store, and I didn’t know what to expect.

But instead of letting fear of the unknown and negative reactions take over, our neighborhood took a different approach. We gave them a chance. We accepted Walmart’s outreach to us and decided to focus on how we could build a cooperative relationship to benefit our community.

Even before the first shovel of dirt was turned on the new store, we heard from Walmart and welcomed them to our neighborhood association meetings. We listened to their plans and commitment to partner with us, and we sought to build a foundation of mutual trust. They attended many meetings and were always willing to answer our questions and listen to our suggestions.

The result?

In Walmart, we found a neighbor eager for a productive relationship. They knew we’d have questions about the store so they let us know the timelines and activities that were going to occur throughout every phase of construction. They invited us to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on a piece of property that had long been devoid of any commercial activity.

Most importantly, they supported our neighborhood. The idea of creating a green roof came from one of our neighborhood meetings, and Walmart followed through and incorporated it into their new store design.

When we sought to improve bus service for our neighbors, Walmart was there with a letter of support. They even built a new bus stop before a final commitment ever came from TriMet to extend the line.

And, of major significance to many in our area, Walmart kept us apprised of hiring and job opportunities at the store so our neighbors could seek career opportunities closer to home. Several neighbors were hired at a pay scale above the minimum wage and now have benefits they previously did not have at prior jobs.

Local organizations important to our community also have benefited. Groups like North Portland’s Rosemary Anderson High School, The Black Parent Initiative, Portland Rescue Mission and Portland State University were each recognized at the new Delta Park store’s recent grand opening with generous grants from Walmart. These grants will help with everything from an education program for disadvantaged youth to providing meals for the hungry and supporting new research in green building technologies.

While other communities struggle with issues related to development by large corporations, I encourage other communities to work with these large corporations and offer them ways to improve the livability of our neighborhoods and become a part of the community. We took the time to meet with the local Walmart team and found a partner who is eager to support our community and be a thoughtful neighbor.

Maryhelen Kincaid is a Northeast Portland resident and chairwoman of the East Columbia Neighborhood Association.