As president and chief executive of the Valley Economic Alliance, I have the opportunity to speak with many people about the challenges the Valley faces and what can be done to make it a better place to do business and live in.
Late last year, IKEA announced plans to build their largest store in the United States in the heart of Burbank. That same month, a Walmart opened in Irvine on the site of a former Great Indoors store soon after it was first announced, to the cheers of elected officials and the community.
Meanwhile, in Burbank, a former Great Indoors store will remain vacant after a judge voided Walmart’s building permits in a judgment that will have negative, long-term ramifications on how developers view the Valley.
As soon as plans were announced, Big Labor singled out Walmart, shipping in outside protesters to hysterically claim that a new Walmart would be the end of Burbank. Oddly, the permits granted to Walmart were the same given to other large retailers.
A Burbank Walmart would create approximately 250 new jobs, not to mention many construction jobs. The jobs created would offer competitive wages, benefits and real opportunities for building a career. One example is Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon, who started as a summer Walmart associate sweeping floors.
Furthermore, empty buildings are more than just wasted space. They invite crime, decay, and falling community morale. A vacant building becomes especially worrisome to other businesses throughout the area — especially one that is more than 130,000 square feet. It becomes a highly visible symbol of decline.
The judge’s decision in this case could mean that the former Great Indoors building could remain vacant for years, if not decades. Walmart is on the right track to move forward and appeal this decision.
We know from our experience in the San Fernando Valley, most notably Panorama City, that Walmart is a good corporate neighbor. Walmart has already made a serious commitment to the community here, giving generously to community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Burbank Temporary Aid Center, and many others.
We truly love Burbank and fully understand that a new Walmart would represent job growth and significant improvements for our community.
GREGORY S. KRIKORIAN is president and chief executive of the Valley Economic Alliance. He is also a member of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education. He can be reached at GKrikorian@economicalliance.org.