"We Are All Connected." - Wal-Mart on Archer Road

The words buy local often invoke images of mom and pop stores, local farmers and long-standing area businesses. And while it is tempting to think that larger, big-box stores hurt local economies, such establishments actually play a vital role in the system.

“I think there’s a misconception that, because Walmart is a big-box company, we don’t help out locally,” said Shawnta Lang, the store manager at Walmart’s Archer Road location. “We help support the local community by (individually) purchasing things local and through community advance grants and other opportunities.”

Lang oversees a staff of approximately 300 employees, all of whom can aim for management track work.
“Walmart is a performance-based company,” said Lang. “If you are excelling, you have the opportunity to advance within the company or transfer to other aspects of Walmart such as Sam’s Club, Walmart.com, the (Alachua) distribution center. There are several avenues that you can be promoted to within the company.”
With the several hundred jobs that the company brings to the area comes several hundred sources of spending – sources that patronize local stores, restaurants and other establishments.

Also of note is the economic impact of taxes paid by the company, as well as its many instances of charitable giving. Every Walmart store provides grants and donations to the community, including gift card or merchandise contributions to organizations such as the Alachua County Sheriff ’s Office, the Buchholz High School wrestling team and Arbor House. Lang’s store also raised almost $19,000 for the March of Dimes this past spring through in-store fundraising, pledge collection and participation of more than 60 store employees in the annual March for Babies.

These factors demonstrate the vital function that larger companies serve in the local economy.

“We think it is important to be inclusive with the Buy Local campaign,” said Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of commerce. “This isn’t about certain types of businesses. This is about all of us using our dollars to grow our economy.”

Lang notes how much national and local economies are tied together, each helping the other in its own way.

“We’re a family within a family. I’m able to know a lot of my associates and their families, and they have spouses that work in different organizations and companies,” she said. “I feel like we are all connected in a family atmosphere, friends and neighbors. We shop here, we live here in this community, and we work together to support each other.”

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