Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chamber CEO tells small business to 'either die or get creative' after Walmart job announcement

Small businesses that joined with Walmart against Amazon get screwed

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, May 5, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Frank Knapp, the CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, has weighed in yesterday's announcement by Gov. Nikki Haley that Walmart will be adding a dozen or so new stores across the state, a move that is expected to create 4,000 jobs — many of which will surely be part-time, poorly paid positions with no little to no benefits.

The announcement comes days after the state House of Representatives voted to deny a sales tax exemption for Amazon, which had planned to build a new distribution center in Lexington that would have employed 1,200 people full-time.

Walmart led a coalition of big box stores and small businesses to oppose the deal, noting that the exemption would harm mom-and-pop outfits and give Amazon an unfair advantage. Their efforts paid off. The House voted against the exemption, and Amazon announced it would not be building a distribution center in South Carolina. Small business and Walmart rejoiced.

Today, small businesses owners — and Lexington County officials — don't feel quite so cheery.

According to a State newspaper post:

Some Lexington County leaders were skeptical of the lack of specifics in Wal-Mart’s announcement.

“It sure looks like payback to me,” said Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning, head of the economic development committee, who was at the news conference where the announcement was made.

The State also reported:

Lexington County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat, who also attended the news conference, said the timing alone makes the announcement suspect. “I think it’s quite a coincidence,” he said, laughing.

County Councilman Todd Cullum of Cayce chided Wal-Mart and Haley for “trying to play a shell game.”
Most of the job gains promised seem vague and it’s unclear how the move will benefit communities, he said.

Now, you've got to wonder how S.C. Small Biz head Knapp feels about all of this. After all, he praised the anti-Amazon vote as a game changer that would help small businesses, noting that "the House vote established a new principle 'for the state's big business recruitment efforts — do no harm to our existing small businesses.'”

So is he pissed off that Walmart used an alliance of small business to do their bidding ?

Is he worried that Walmart's plan to build a dozen or so stores in the state will hurt small businesses?

Um, apparently not, according to quotes in an AP report (a report, mind you, that appears to have been emailed to me unsoliticed from the Small Business Chamber):

Frank Knapp, chief executive of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said that small business owners wondering how to compete in areas where the retail giant is expanding need to remind their consumers of perks they can offer that bigger stores perhaps cannot.

"Small businesses have to learn how to compete with them on other things," Knapp said. "It's either service, convenience, something that the small business can do that maybe the big box store cannot. ... Now they have to either die or get creative and come up with another reason why people should shop with them."

Wow. Get creative or die. What a choice. I'm sure that makes South Carolina's small business community feel so much better. With friends like Knapp, who needs enemies, right.

On a side note, The Post and Courier ran virtually the same AP report today, albeit with additional reporting and one notable snip: Knapp's quotes are nowhere to be found in the P&C's post.

Hmm. I wonder what all of those small businesses that advertise in the P&C will make of that.

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