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Sold on Walmart as Economic Stimulus

A Walmart store arriving in South San Diego this fall is expected to bring a needed lift to business activity as well as add more than 250 jobs.

The 75,000-square-foot store will replace a former Mervyns at 575 Saturn Blvd. in the Southland Plaza Shopping Center of the Egger Highlands community. It will become Walmart’s fifth location in the city of San Diego.

Although not planned as a supercenter, the store will include a pharmacy as well as general merchandise including apparel and accessories, sporting goods, electronics, home and health and beauty products. The retailer expects to begin construction in March and open a hiring center in late summer for positions ranging from management and pharmacy staff to human resources, customer service, cashiers and sales associates.

Cindy Gompper-Graves, CEO of the South County Economic Development Council, said the shopping center occupants, including a Home Depot, Big 5 Sporting Goods and assorted small restaurants and shops, have felt an impact from the loss of its anchor tenant, Mervyns, more than two years ago.

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“This will give businesses in that center more access to customers,” said Gompper-Graves, adding that there seems to be a trend of stores starting up in the area, and not just big-box retailers but also small retailers and manufacturers. “The economy seems to be turning around.”

Building Momentum

San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, whose 8th District encompasses the neighborhood, expects the Walmart to have a positive impact, possibly creating additional business for the smaller stores in the area.

“That area, the Egger Highlands community, is in need of some retail and in this case Walmart is an anchor tenant and is taking over vacant property and I think that’s good for economic activity in general,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said he hopes to build momentum in the South County by bringing in more businesses, including manufacturing, to achieve a balanced economy.

Steven Restivo, senior director of community affairs for Walmart, said the company’s stores often serve as magnets for other new businesses, large and small.

“The businesses that surround our stores generally have products and services we don’t offer or are strong in areas where we can’t compete,” Restivo said in an email. “Just drive around the vicinity of our other San Diego stores to see how Walmart fosters opportunity for others.”

In joining local leaders in announcing the planned store on-site near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Palm Avenue on Feb. 10, Mayor Jerry Sanders commented on the positive economic and sustainable impact that comes with the reuse of dormant buildings.

Filling a Need

“A year ago, Walmart promised to create jobs, and today we are here not just to witness the announcement of a new store, but the revitalization of an empty building and a community in need of opportunity,” Sanders said in a statement.

Also attending the announcement ceremonies was Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Barrales said the new store will not only give residents of South County more consumer choices, but it will spur economic activity with the creation of more than 100 construction jobs for the store’s remodeling and more than 250 Walmart jobs. In addition, the store will attract customer activity, and the new jobs will create more potential customers, he said.

“Our problem is the economy is weak and we need to create more jobs, more economic investment and economic activity,” Barrales said. “This investment in this store does just that.”

Barrales added that if Walmart’s market research indicates this can be a successful store then it’s a good sign that South San Diego is a promising place to invest, and he hopes the trend will continue.

“Creating more jobs is a good trend for the entire region, and particularly for South San Diego,” he said. “The local businesses I talk to need more than anything more customers and more activity.”

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