In July, the town of Homer, Louisiana, will become the latest in a string of small Southern communities where Wal-Mart has taken over the local economy only to skip town years later, leaving a withered tax base and no place to buy many staple goods.
Wal-Mart’s announcement that it will close its superstore at the beginning of July has spread panic among public officials in this town of 3,700 people about 20 miles south of the Arkansas border.
Wal-Mart accounts for 42 percent of the town’s tax base. Officials are predicting substantial cuts in town services and employment.
The store’s closure will also leave residents without local access to many types of goods. The nearest Wal-Mart is in Minden, twenty miles away. Local business owners fear a cascade of losses as residents buy in Minden even those items still available from stores in Homer.
A number of small towns, including Hearne, Texas, and Nowata, Oklahoma, have suffered the same fate. Twenty years ago, Wal-Mart opened a superstore in Bunkie, Louisiana. Nearly two dozen locally owned businesses folded and Wal-Mart became the largest taxpayer in town. Then, in 2004, Wal-Mart shuttered its Bunkie store to open a larger outlet in a town twenty miles away.