In a move of both sheer genius and utter depravity, Walmart announced last week that they are bringing 4,000 new jobs to South Carolina after leading a coalition of small business owners against a proposed Amazon distribution center in Lexington.
Now, what kind of jobs are these you ask? Well, Walmart plans to open dozens of new stores across the state, new stores that will be in direct competition with small businesses — you know, the very same folks they had convinced that Amazon was a threat.
You've got to give them credit. This is backstabbing at its finest.
Just think, a few weeks back, Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, praised the vote to deny Amazon a sales tax exemption. According to a Greenville News report, Knapp "said the House vote established a new principle 'for the state's big business recruitment efforts — do no harm to our existing small businesses.'"
Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) said the Amazon deal was "a back-room promise" and "corporate extortion," according to The State. Um. I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that the state's deal with Amazon wasn't the only back-room deal going on.
And I've got a feeling it wasn't the only bit of extortion going on either, judging by what one Walmart higher-up said about the Amazon exemption. According to The State, Walmart Regional Manager Noah Johnson had a message for legislators, telling them, "There are things in our pipeline that could more than make up for what [Amazon] would bring. [The tax break] could alter those plans."
Although Gov. Nikki Haley did little to publicly push the state House one way or the other on the Amazon vote, she celebrated the outcome and Amazon's decision to move a proposed distribution center from South Carolina to Tennessee. She even went as far as to suggest that the kind of jobs Amazon would offer are the kind of jobs the Palmetto State doesn't want.
According to the Charleston Regional Business Journal, Haley proclaimed, "Retail by nature has a high turnover. Retail by nature is a lower-priced job. And retail by nature is not solid and invested. It is not a Boeing. It is not a BMW. Manufacturing, high technology is very different."
Hmm. I wonder what made Haley change her mind about retail jobs; after all, she was pleased as punch during the press conference announcing Walmart's 4,000 new jobs.
The governor wasn't the only person who seemed to do an about-face. Like many of you, I thought that Knapp would be more than a little pissed off that Walmart had seemingly used an alliance of small business to do their bidding. I was wrong. Apparently, Knapp isn't worried that Walmart's plan to build a dozen or so stores in the state will hurt small businesses.
According to an AP report, Knapp "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?