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Mega retailer Wal-Mart makes sales pitch before a group of local Black entrepreneurs

District 9 Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness challenged Wal-Mart representatives

District 9 Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness challenged Wal-Mart representatives

Mega retailer Wal-Mart makes sales pitch before a group of local Black entrepreneurs

Walmart hoping to win groups’ approval  for the construction of a new store location in Central Broward

 District 9 Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness challenged Wal-Mart representatives to offer more than just jobs to his constituency. Commissioner Holness called on Wal-Mart to include Black entrepreneurs with business opportunities which would have a major impact and help foster economic development within the Black community.

By Charles Moseley 

      Wal-Mart corporate representatives met with a group of Black entrepreneurs in a Broward County Commission chamber conference room this past Monday. The meeting was sponsored by Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness (District 9) who brought Wal-Mart and the GDC Broward RB, the major players involved to discuss plans to build and develop a new Wal-Mart Store lo-cation in Central Broward.

“Our purpose for being here today is to work with Commissioner Holness on job creation within Broward County and to help with understanding the opportunities that are with Wal-Mart. There are opportunities at Wal-Mart – it’s just making sure that we are able to identify those potential suppliers and their capabilities,” said Jonathon Nimrod, Wal-Mart Director of Supplier Diversity.

The retail giant (NYSE: WMT) signed a lease for 15.2-acres with Gatlin Development Corporation(GDC Broward RB), an affiliate of Frank Gatlin III’s Gatlin Development, GDC Broward RB paid $11.5 million for a 31.5-acre site at 2400 West Broward Blvd., earlier this year, which was expected to pave the way for a new Wal-Mart.

Michele Belaire Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-Director of Public Affairs & Government Relations-spoke in optimistic terms after her presentation but said there was still work to be done by her company to address the concerns expressed by some who attended the meeting.

“I think some people had some genuine concerns on how Wal-Mart can have a larger significant impact in Broward. I’m hopeful that some folks walked away with a better understanding of what we represent that and not just new opportunity for new bricks and mortar for the existing presence that we already have in Bro-ward County, with over 23 stores and being responsible for nearly 7000 Wal-Mart Associates living in Broward and how we can continue to grow and build a myriad of relationships.”

Belaire went on to say that Wal-Mart was the largest employer of African Americans in the Continental U.S. as well as the largest private employer of Hispanics. She posed the question, “Are we reflective of our communities?” She answered,” Yes we are.”

“We are a proposed tenant no mistake about it, in this proposed project. One critical thing is that we are responsible for building that building and investing not just in building it; Wal-Mart plans to spend an estimated $30 million on this project in the infrastructure. Just to be a tenant most companies don’t make that type of investment when they’re going into a shopping plaza. There is significance in that type of investment to be a long term tenant, it’s about our com-mitment.”

Although Wal-Mart used the opportunity to showcase their track record to gain support for the project among those attending the meeting, some among those in attendance felt that their presentation fell flat, leaving them feeling less than enthused  by what they heard. Commissioner Holness was left wondering aloud as to how far reaching the project would go toward changing the economic fabric of his community and among Black owned businesses located in his district, which spans from Fort Lauderdale north to North Lauderdale and also include Plantation, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Oak-land Park, and Tamarac.

“The purpose of this meeting was to insure if this development is going forward that we don’t just get work but we get opport-unities for wealth creation for businesses who are marketing companies, who are advertising, our newspapers, our attorney’s, our CPA’s, and not just what’s directly connected to this one site but throughout the whole Wal-Mart System. I want to make sure that they hear a voice that says Black folks need to be at the table participating at every level and that the poverty that exists in our community is alleviated. The jobs that pay eight, nine, ten bucks and hour are OK, but that’s not enough to create wealth, to leave a legacy for our future generation, for our people to be able to bequeath to their families, so that we get out of this rut that we’ve been in for too long,” Commissioner Holness commented..

Brian Johnson, President/CEO for the Broward Minority Builders Coalition(BCMBC), voiced his frustration for what he said was the untimely fashion by which Wal-Mart had responded to attempt’s by his organization, over the past year to gain access to the company’s  procurement process. He said the delays in this process had left the companies he repre-sented a year behind in trying to do business with Wal-Mart on the project.

“This particular project on Broward Boulevard and 27th Ave has with it the highest level of hope as well as the traditional level of skepticism. On the one hand the hope is with Gatlin Development,  is a developer who because he has moved his family, his staff, and his company to South Florida, of course, has responded to the community’s request to include us in his development process. The challenge is that on the 27th Wal-Mart he controls the land but he only controls half of the building and half of the opportunities so we have great confidence on the half he controls that there are significant community opportunities available. On the flip side that Wal-Mart controls because of their national reputation for slowness in responding to the community, we’re not so clear on what level of opportunities there are on their half of the project. So that’s where we’re working to try and get Wal-Mart to be a little bit more responsive than they have been in the past, to give us full access to all the opportunities for this project.”

A close examination of the Wal-Mart’s official website revealed a number of corporate initiatives to support women, veterans, and promote diversity in the workplace. The company’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, planned to hire 100,000 veterans by 2015 and spend $20 million to support employment opportunities for veterans and their families.

Through Wal-Mart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, they plan to help provide more training, market access and career opportunities to nearly 1 million women, many on farms and factories, ultimately allowing them access to the economic opportunity they deserve.

Newton Sanon President of OIC of South Florida, a jobs training and job placement agency which operates  primarily in urban communities in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties summed up what appeared to be the wide spread sentiment of those represented at the meeting.

“I think it’s a good start. But like all starts you’ve got to have a finish. I think there is a great opportunity for us to realize a lot of opportunities with Wal-Mart, but opportunities are just that until they’re realized. I look forward to the continued, not just discussions, but actions in the overall lives within our community in economic development and jobs for our people.”



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