By David Meade
The Journal staff, like many of you, have heard the rumors that Walmart is coming to Williamston.
As of today – No official or public announcement has been made by Walmart or any public official or private landowner that would be involved in the process.
Just so you know, we are not ignoring this story. We have been attempting to track down information and to confirm or deny the rumors (unconfirmed reports) for some time.
As a newspaper, we cannot go “on the record” with a story until there is something to report. In this case, we are reporting on rumors (unconfirmed reports).
This is not unusual when a company is considering a new location for a manufacturing or retail location.
Take the work underway on Anderson Drive for a new Family Dollar location in Williamston. The property was first cleared of two older houses, then went through a rezoning process and now site preparation is underway. However no official annoucement has been made that a Family Dollar is indeed planning to locate there.
Often local government officials or economic development staff are brought in early on discussions about a project which is given a code name such as Project XYZ, Project Mustang or Project Big Water. If there are public discussions, the code name is used.
As more people, workers and government officials become involved in the process, it becomes increasingly difficult to “keep a lid on it.”
Word begins to get out and rumors begin. Eventually someone says enough about a project that some facts begin to get mixed in and “spread like wildfire,” or in todays verbage, it goes “viral.”
Often the preliminary stages of making a project happen take months. There are market and demographic studies on sales potential and workforce availability, studies to see if a location is viable and if sales projections will support the entity. Then there is property acquisition, infrastructure, zoning, site preparation and eventually construction.
All of this is usually done with no official announcement.
At some point as a project moves through the process, officials make a public announcement or the project shows up on a public document.
Usually this happens when it has to come before a public board for approval of either zoning, planning, tax incentives, fee in lieu agreements or something the company requests help with.
Eventually projects such as First Quality Paper (Project Big Water) or the Powdersville Walmart, show up on a planning or public works document, essentially confirming the initial rumor(s) that may have been circulating for months.
Sometimes the “official announcement” happens at a groundbreaking or grand opening long after the initial steps are taken.
In other instances, it never happens.
How many times through the years have you heard that Ingles or Walmart or Walgreens or some other business is coming to the Williamston or Pelzer area?
Yet property and buildings including the former Winn Dixie in Williamston and the old Sky City (Bargain Store) building in Pelzer remain vacant.
So if the rumors (unconfirmed reports) are true, Williamston will finally get a grocery store, and a whole lot more. The town along with West Pelzer and Pelzer will get a major retail store that will again make the area a shopping destination for the surrounding area as opposed to a shopping drain to Anderson and Greenville.
And, surrounding businesses will benefit from additional shoppers being in the area.
If the rumors (unconfirmed reports) are not true, well the area will continue getting by with a declining retail and job base.
But there is a third possibility – that a deal falls through in the preliminary process.
Who knows how many times this has happened. The land isn’t suitable, the local government fails to provide what the company wants, etc. In other words, “The deal is not done until it is done.”
Back to the Walmart rumors – It has been said “that where there is smoke there is fire.”
Something is feeding the conversation in the community and on social media.
This we can confirm:
Fact – There is surveying going on at property off Roberts Blvd. between the Lander Library and Palmetto Softball fields.
Fact – Numerous “officials” have been told or are telling others that the rumors about Walmart are true.
But until someone in an official position or some other document or record confirms a rumor, it is still a rumor.
So if or when any public official or Walmart representative will go “on the record” or is ready to make an official announcement, here is our contact information:
David C. Meade
PO Box 369
Williamston, SC 29697
Until then, we will keep looking into it.