Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Monday, March 02, 2009
  Not Good
I've worried about this a couple of times over the past two years:
The nation's second-largest home improvement chain is also cutting the number of new stores it plans to open this year. In September, it said it would open 75 to 80 stores in 2009; Friday, it cut that figure to 60 to 70 new stores, and officials said the figure could change again. Lowe's opened 120 new stores in 2008.
What I wrote in 2007 (on CJ's defunct blog):
'I'll believe the store is opening only after the ribbon is cut simply because the housing market is getting ready to crash and Lowe's depends on contractor business.'
(Hey. I did a better job predicting the recession than our Federal Reserve! Oh, that's right - 'Nobody could have predicted....')

From what I've been told, the green lights have all been given and the documents have all been signed, BUT what if Lowe's simply cannot make the investment?

My guess is that the developer will contractually get a cash settlement, but North Adams? Who knows?

(link found via Bob the builder on a Topix thread - No, I don't post there very often anymore.)
I said it then and I'll say it again, bringing a Lowe's to the area is the biggest boneheaded idea I have heard for this area.

If any big box type store should be brought in, it should be a Costco or a BJ's Warehouse.

Filling buildings (Peebles, Sleepy's, etch) for the sake of filling buildings is just a bad business policy in my opinion.
when you have home improvement channels which portray a better life through a bathroom remodel on 24/7 these types of business' are bound to thrive. But I don't see the growth continuing as they are the GM of home improvement. FAIL
I don't think it's THAT bonehead a move. I mean, I've said for a while now that it's hard to fathom retail--esp. big-box retail--as a big part of any revitalization plan for the city, but it's not like the city is any worse off than it started with.

Maybe another industrial park, as befitting the rest of that stretch of road south to Specialty Minerals, would make some sense. Or a small biz/tech incubator space for law, accounting, tech, finance firms, out of the scope of Messrs. Carver and Manuel.

Problem is that land and building is gonna cost a lot to remediate and who's gonna come up with that kinda cake apart from a national concern of some kind? I certainly don't have that kinda capital, although winning the MegaMillions tonight will make that more than possible...:-)
OTOH, with $95mil in my pocket, I can expect that developing Northern Berkshire real estate would probably be fairly low on my wealth management plan.

I gotta stop thinking about this.
Ross, you and every other developer with that kind of coin.
The city wants Lowes for simple reasons: property taxes and jobs.

I would love for there to be better ways to do this... but right now that's all we have. Beggars can't be choosers.

I don't think we need another industrial park when there are empty buildings in the one that's already there.
Brian--you're right, I know.

Like I said, I don't think the Lowe's is a bonehead move. Taxes are nice, and jobs are nice. But there's really only a handful of jobs worth $40K+benefits there.

Look, Peebles brought jobs too: maybe 12, mostly part time, no benefits. Yay. I just wish retail wasn't the avenue of first resort whenever the city talks about its plans for growth.
I just wish retail wasn't the avenue of first resort whenever the city talks about its plans for growth.

it's the only avenue that stops here.....what do you suggest? i have suggested we get the BU biolab that Boston doesn't want....i have suggested we go after alternative energy producers, ie solar, methane and wind at the transfer station...but no...we get 8mil for a therater that will be used for "special ocassions"....our brains are oval not square....get out of the box....

Wanna think out of the box? OK. Let's get a prison up here. Jobs up the ass, visitors by the boatload. Adverse geography actually helps, since there so few ways in and out of town.

I dunno, Chris; if I had to guess I'd say 20 years ago the city made a commitment to point towards being a small college town with a museum and small retail sector. We're aren't moving any closer to a big city or getting a factory/research center/state facility built any time soon. So you chase business that feeds into that: art. Education. Tourism. Technology.

If a company comes and wants to build here, you don't chase em away. Fine.

But how far would another museum on that site go towards taking North Adams to the next level as an art community and destination?

Or would it make sense to offer incentives to a developer who wants to set up a tech incubator space, and rent booths at CES and E3 and MacWorld and tell thousands of tech companies that you'd be interested in having them move to town...and be serious about it?

Just a few suggestions. Out of the box enough?
I can't see who will work in these proposed "high-tech" facilities. Surely not all the former mill and factory workers looking for jobs. The expertise simply isn't there.

I agree and wish that retail wasn't the answer... but those 12 part-time jobs have to be better than 0 part-time jobs, no?

Also, why would we give tax breaks (read: property tax breaks) to facilities to come here, where there are places willing to come sans breaks? Just wouldn't make sense.

The simple fact is that there is nothing, there can be nothing that can replace $20-$30/hr jobs with benefits for unskilled labor. The quicker we come to grips with that, the better.
My objection to Lowes, and has always been my objection, is that there will be no net new jobs. Sure they may hire 25 or 50 locals, but at what expense to the local companies already here?

10 part-time jobs that are taking employees from 10 other companies are not better than 0 part-time jobs.

I don't think people are looking at the full cost of having Lowe's build here. It would be nothing for them to operate for a couple years and pull up stakes and move on. Then the city has an even bigger eye sore to deal with and the companies that were forced to close due to undercutting prices are long gone.

I say go with the college community and take advantage of the robotics program that has already been started at MCLA and add to that with alternate energy and science.

You property taxes, bring in Costco or BJ's. Companies the locals can actually benefit from.
I totally agree with a Costco or BJ's there, I think that would be best-case scenario. The problem is the city doesn't really get to choose... either a company wants to be here, or they do not.

Most folks in Bennington figured that the Home Depot would shut down Greenberg's... it did not. I have heard it has only made their service better (which is something that could help the N.A. location A LOT).

Even if it did put Greenbergs out of business, Lowes will employ far more people so there will still be a net gain in jobs as well as in property taxes.

Your point on high-tech teaching in local schools is well taken, and I agree that is an answer over the longer term. For now we need to get some of the jobless working, even if it isn't the best job on the planet.
CJ--I respectfully disagree with most of your premises above:

*Read George Will's back-pager in this week's Newsweek for a good explanation of why employment in a competitive environment is not a zero-sum game.

*It certainly would be something for them to plan, build, stock, and market a new store on that site and then have to bail. If they thought that was even more than a 20% possibility in the next 5 years there's no way they'd put a store there.

*Colleges can provide the tech workers for an incubator. Williams doesn't even offer a comp sci degree, though, and I don't think MCLA is going to consider upgrading their program until they go a few more steps with their science building.

BTW, see how ULowell cancelled their science building today? Couldn't borrow the money. Doesn't bode well.

Anyway, Snoop old bean, if Lowes builds and leaves, they aren't leaving a moldy, crumbling eyesore of a building with a pockmarked parking lot that floods every spring. I just don't see the big downside....not that I see the big upside, either.
Well Ross, that wouldn't be the first time I was told I had no idea what I was talking about.

I don't know if you were here before the Wal-Mart days, but many of the same stories about competition would good for all were told to the Kmart workers, and Martin's Shoe Store, an Lilly's Music and Newberry's. Now people are try to figure out how to get foot traffic on Main street.

I'm not implying Lowe's would leave a dump, but I do think it would quickly become one in the time it would take to find another suitor for site that large.
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