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After three years of hard work (and some speculation on the part of community naysayers) several thousand emails, hundreds of phone calls and text messages, Mayor David Bower, members of the Salem City Council, Board of Works and the City’s marketing director gathered on Salem’s eastside about 11:30a Friday to break ground on the largest Wal-Mart SuperCenter in the Kentuckiana area.

“This wasn’t a completely done deal until July 7,” said Bower. “I’m honored and so pleased to have brought this project to Salem. The benefits will be far reaching in the years to come.”

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Mayor David Bower leads the groundbreaking for the new Walmart Supercenter in Salem with, from left, Justin Green, Pat Persinger, Kelly Sweress of Cedarwood, Jorge Lanz of Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz consulting engineers, Randy Hake of Cedarwood, Truck Jones, Terry McNeely, Wally Terkhorn, Greg Fitzloff and Walmart officials.

Randy Hake, Vice President of Commercial Development at Cedarwood Development, said the property on State Road 56 includes a total of 27 acres that will not only be anchored by the 155,000 square foot Walmart Super Center but will have five development pads along the main road frontage and a four acre development tract for future businesses on the northeast side.

“This site will feature future jobs, future retail and future prosperity for the City of Salem,” Hake said to about 100 who gathered to watch shovelfuls of dirt turned over to start the process that will take about a year to complete.

Kevin Thompson, Walmart Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations, said the new store will hire about 300 associates. The Murphy’s Oil fuel station will feature 8 gas pumps.

Thompson  said annual sales at a store this size could be in the tens of millions of dollars per year.

Contributions to the local economy haven’t been figured yet, but Bower indicated it could be millions of dollars a year.

“We Look forward to being part of the community for many years to come,” Thompson said.

Bower said two businesses were already secured for the site but declined to mention their names.

Commercial property along the corridor has cropped up for sale but there haven’t been any takers.

“Things are going to begin changing,” said Bower.

Greg Fitzloff, the City of Salem’s Marketing Director, said he was proud of the work that had been done.

“This is an important day. Three years ago we started down this path,” he said. “ I know a lot of you had been wondering if this would come, today’s the day. Economic development is a process of inspiration and perspiration and celebration. Tomorrow we go back to work.”

 

PROGRESS HAS A BEGINNING

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Randy Hake of Cedarwood Developments shows off a rendering of the new store in Salem.
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Afterwards, guests were treated to a meal from John Apples’s Pig Miracle BBQ.

 

Hake pointed out in his address to the public that former Mayor Frank Newkirk Sr. had wanted to bring a Walmart to Salem during his multi-term office in the 80s and early 90s.

“It’s significant that I have his daughter-in-law – Denise Newkirk – here today who has been a big supporter and has been a great help,” said Hake.

Hake said the project began about three years ago and “could not have happened without the can-do attitude of our team leader – Mayor David Bower.”

Hake said the first email that exchanged between Bower and he was on April 24, 2012.

“We had a very positive meeting with the City of Salem,” he said. “Over the next 1165 days….thousands of emails, hundreds of text messages, dozens of tele conferences and a few good old fashioned face to face meetings took place.”

The project has been a long one for city officials as well as the public, who have contacted local radio station owner Becky White almost daily to ask the question – “Is Walmart really coming?”

“I have probably bugged Mayor Bower and Greg [Fitzloff] more about this than any other topic,” said White. “But they have always been optimistic and said, “It’s coming.” So I would go back to social media, emails or just on the air or in the community and repeat that “It’s coming” – and it’s nice to finally see it get here.”

Hake said the land has finally been purchased from local developers and he sent an email to Bower on July 7 to let him know:

“Mayor, congratulations! Wal-Mart now owns property in the City of Salem. Will break ground ASAP.”

Ten days later the ground was broken and the project is now underway.

Bower admitted that “Lot of days I didn’t know this was going to happen.”

He said the bypass and hotel were projects that brought plenty of naysayers.

“When there was a swatch being cut for the bypass, people would come up to me and say, you’re not going to get a bypass. When the roof was being built on the hotel, people said…gosh, you’re not gonna get a hotel,” said Bower.

“I wish I had a dollar for every time a lot of folks came up to me and said, ‘David you’re not going to get that done. We’re here today. I’m proud of that. I’m proud we can succeed. This community has far more to offer than anyone will ever realize. It’s time to communicate not just to the people in the community but to the world. Walmart will help us do that. “

 

FUTURE GROWH IN SALEM

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Mayor David Bower led the groundbreaking. “It’s been a long time coming.”
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Kevin Thompson and Toni Rodriguez of Walmart

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mayor Bower. “As time goes on the things that are happening here today – there are many things to come. Many things in the works. I’m very proud of that I learned that it’s about stepping stones and not stumbling blocks.”brea

Bower couldn’t say enough about his support staff in the City of Salem – council members, board of works, building inspectors and marketing team members.

“If we’ve expressed a great can-do attitude,” he said. “It’s because I’ve had the great support and belief….if you believe in what we can do, then we want to perform. Without these gentleman, we couldn’t have done this.”

Bower said there were other projects in the works.

“We’ve been taken seriously now by other companies. This is just the start of good things to come,” said Bower. “It’s about jobs and about opportunity. It’s about revenue for the city to do things you want us to do on a daily basis.”

Bower has been a frugal mayor and noted that the assessed valuation in Salem had not raised in about 10 years.

Yet he continues to keep streets paved, utilities running and one of the nicest looking cities around with no additional revenue.

“The city just this year had to reduce the budget by $390,000 mid year,” Bower illustrated. “I continue to make sure your government operates as efficiently as possible. The additional revenue that Walmart and other businesses will bring in, will be critical to the city to continue to pave roads, put in water lines. We estimate that over the next 20 years. Over $10 million in revenue will be created by these businesses.  We would never have had that without this business.”

Referring to local merchants facing competition from Walmart, Bower recalled his days as a local merchant before going into city and county politics.

I spent many years as a local merchant. It’s here. I’m proud of it and I believe in our merchant base,” he said. “I believe that our businesses in the community can co-exist with Walmart and the businesses to come.”

Fitzloff pointed to other achievements over the past couple of years – “Kimball just brought in the new facility from Idaho and about 100 jobs, Summit Seed coating just opened this spring and has continued to grow. Cobblestone hotel became our first hotel and recently John Jones GM City moved into a new location and H&R Bakery is making plans to move to the square.  We’ve seen the effort pay off. This is kind of the benchmark.”

 

WALMART BY THE NUMBERS

 

There are 92 Supercenters in Indiana and Salem’s will bring that number to 93.

Walmart employees approximately 35,687 in Indiana with an average wage of $12.65.

Walmart spent $1.3 billion with suppliers in Indiana.

No estimates were given for the amount of local taxes that would be generated by the new Walmart store, but Walmart contributes $342.3 million in taxes and fees in 2014, alone.

In 2013, Walmart gave $39.9 million to local communities .