Heber urges buy residents to buy local
Summit County may see fewer shoppers from the Heber Valley after this summer.
The Walmart store under construction on the south end of town is scheduled to be complete by July, said Heber City planning director Tony Kohler.
The 100-acre mixed-use zone northwest of the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 189 was approved by voters in 2005, but it was a hotly contested issue. A primary concern that motivated the approval was "leakage" to Utah and Summit counties, he explained.
Heber Valley residents frequently travel to stores in nearby communities to buy products that are unavailable or more expensive in the valley. Allowing major retailers like Walmart to locate in Heber could keep more of those sales tax dollars, and jobs, in the area.
Luke Peterson, director of tourism and economic development for the Heber Valley, said he is aware of women arranging carpooling trips to Costco stores in Utah County during the week while at church on Sundays.
"Basically, we don’t have enough different retail providers," he said. "Some things are impossible to find in the Heber Valley we need to capture those dollars or else they go elsewhere."
Bill Malone, CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said he wouldn’t be able to quantify how much, but he is predicting Heber’s Walmart will have a minor effect on some Park City sales numbers.
The approval of the Heber Walmart zoning was debated because of the possible effect it could have on small businesses in the area especially those on Heber’s Main Street.
"Every business has to worry about competition. Walmart happens to compete with a number of businesses at the same time," Peterson said. "But you get bulk competition with Walmart."
Dave Johnson, president of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce, said his group is excited about the growth the Walmart will bring to the business community.
"We look forward to the additional tax revenues it will bring in and the jobs it will create," he said.
Johnson pointed out that this isn’t just about the addition of a single retailer. It is part of a larger project that is bringing several new businesses to Heber.
Kohler explained that the commercial development is a Boyer Company project called, "Valley Station." In addition to the Walmart on 10 acres, there will also be an area resembling a strip mall in the subdivision.
The survival of Main Street businesses will depend on what they do, not what new businesses do, he said.
"There’s room for growth in the valley. Walmart and Main Street businesses can coexist and thrive," he added.
The Wasatch Campus of Utah Valley University offers continuing education classes for small business owners. Peterson said his group is encouraging existing businesses to seek out training on how to compete with bulk retailers.
"You’ll need to distinguish yourselves and give people a reason to come in your doors," he said.
Mike Young, manager of Heber’s Les Schwab Center, could face a challenge when the Walmart opens as early as July. The store will be directly behind him and will feature a tire and lube center.
Young said he isn’t afraid. The increased traffic will help his business, he said, adding, "It will draw more people from surrounding cities to shop here."
The tire and lube center was an addition to the original idea, Kohler said. Prior to the recession, Walmart and Boyer suggested a 160,000-square-foot store. The recession began before they broke ground, and when they returned to the city last year ready to begin again, they suggested 105,000 square feet.
This means they’ll likely carry seven brands of a product where at another location, they may have 10 brands. A smaller store could mean less tax revenue for the city, and if residents aren’t satisfied with the selection, they may continue to shop outside the county.
On the other hand, some community members have said a smaller store is a better fit for Heber. And no tax concessions were made by the city, he said, so the new design does not cause any conflict with his office.
Walmart did not respond to a request about what departments the new store will include or how many people it is expected to employ. Boyer Company was contacted for an interview but did not reply.
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