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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Enterprise Engages in Spin Control

Folks, you just cannot make this stuff up. It is hard to imagine and yet utterly predictable at the same time.

Here we are, literally two days after the election, one day after the election addition of the paper, and now the Davis Enterprise is trying to mend fences for the city.

On the front page of tonight's paper is an article that was written in the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Now when was the last time you saw an article from the Providence Journal picked up? Two days after Target passes, and you have an article called "Thinking outside big box."

Forgive me if I'm insulting your intelligence. I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I believe and live by the maxim that you should never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity. But let's be honest, is there any other reason for this article from a medium sized paper from across the country to be on the front page of the Davis Enterprise? I'll listen to reasonable alternative theories, post them in the comments below.

In the meantime, let me spell this out... Here's the message--the Davis Enterprise supported Target, Debbie Davis supported Target, Sherry Puntillo supported Target, the Council Majority Supported Target. Target presumably has passed. Now most of the small businesses from downtown wrote into the Davis Enterprise and signed a letter of opposition to Measure K. The power elite in Davis now fear that the businesses in downtown will leave before Target comes here. And so they have put this article in the paper to show the businesses of downtown that they can survive.

The caption says it all "Small stores fend off large retailers with service, specialties." Message to downtown: specialize with good service and you can survive.

Now let me tell you a nice story, a few months ago, the wife and I went to the matress store downtown, she's very particular about the matress, and the guy patiently spent a good hour making sure that we were happy with the matress. He gave us a good deal as well, but I'm certain that we could have found the matress for cheaper somewhere else. But we wouldn't have gotten that kind of service. My wife has been happy with our matress from day one and we didn't have to buy it only to return it later. You cannot get that kind of service and care at a big box, you just cannot.

So I agree with that aspect of the article. But the overall net effect is concerning and it is buried in the article--when a big box moves in, small businesses leave town.

While it's generally accepted that retail giants such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Target can drive out some local businesses when they move into an area, in effect forcing people to lose their jobs, these large employers also create potentially hundreds of new positions to staff new stores. The net effect these changes have on a regional economy's labor market is still up for debate.

Elena Irwin, an associate professor of economics at Ohio State University, said the research regarding small retailers and stores like Wal-Mart is crystal clear.

"Small retailers get driven out of business when Wal-Mart moves into town," she said. "The research on the overall effect of Wal-Mart on jobs is mixed. There is the possibility of a significant loss of jobs or a modest increase after five years. Communities shouldn't expect a net increase in jobs because a Wal-Mart moves to town."

So yes, some businesses may survive. So may adapt. Some will continue to provide good personal service to this community. I do not have a problem with the article itself or what it is saying.

It is interesting to note, that when I looked up the original article, the title was different from title in the Davis Enterprise. The original title: "Small stores seek niches to fend off big competitors."

However, I find the timing and placement of the article "cynical, manipulative, and most likely politically motivated" (That is going to be my new catch phrase).

---Doug Paul Davis reporting