Fred Kamp, store manager of in Ellisville, refuted claims that a new Walmart permitted by the Ellisville City Council to be built across the street would significantly hurt business, but objected to the council's decision to approve the project with tax incentives for its developer.
"It’s a free country and anyone can do business anywhere they want," Kamp said Thursday. "I just don’t agree with the TIF money."
The TIF or tax increment financing district will allow half of all new sales tax revenue generated beyond current values at the site to be put in a fund used by the Sansone Group, the project's developer, for a standard length of up to 23 years. The funds then are earmarked for surrounding infrastructure improvements.
Kamp said he could not predict the impact of a Walmart, saying it could help or hurt business.
“That’s a shot in the dark,” Kamp said. “We’ve had (Walmart) stores open around us in other areas where there’s been little or no impact, and then we’ve had Walmart stores open real near us and (lost) 20 to 30 percent,” Kamp said. “So we really don’t know until it happens.”
Editor's Note: To read what other local business owners and employees had to say about the Walmart project in Ellisville, .
Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, and was one of two council members to oppose Walmart’s construction, has said Kmart would close if a Walmart gets built.
Kamp said he spoke to City Councilmember Matt Pirrello, who finished his second term as mayor in April, about the Walmart proposal, and while he understood the project’s appeal to the City Council, objected to Sansone Group’s claim that the project would not have happened without creating a TIF district.
“Anytime you get competition … it’s not something you want to have happen but you can’t stop it,” Kamp said. ”The only thing I didn’t like about it? If Walmart really wanted to put a store there, they’re going to put it there whether they got $15 million from the city or not. And the city didn’t seem to understand that. Those councilmen were afraid, I think.”
The project, which would create a Walmart Superstore southwest of Manchester and Kiefer Creek roads, did not receive the majority endorsement of the , which included representation from multiple local public bodies, including a city appointee, the Rockwood School District, St. Louis County and the county library. At that March meeting, principal developer Jim Sansone said a TIF was "vitally important" for the project and later said Walmart would not build without the use of a TIF.
“No matter what the developer says, they always tell you ‘Well they’re not going to go there if they don’t get (a TIF). But if they really want to put a store there, they’re going to do it. “
Kamp said the overall impact on sales revenues for a store like his would probably suffer the first month a major competitor locates nearby before sales would rebound. Although no timeline for the project has been made public, Sansone said the company would like to break ground this year.
“As soon as they open and have their grand opening, you’re going to feel the impact immediately, but after about the first three weeks, it should ease up,” Kamp said. “But what the long-term impact is, I don’t know.”
Kamp said a possible decrease in sales probably will not result in significant staffing reductions.
“I don’t think it will be a lot,” Kamp said. “I think it will be minimal.”
Kamp noted that because of the area’s geographic makeup and the store’s occasional seasonal employment of younger staff, there usually is some degree of turnover year round.
“We have continual part time openings.”