Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kohl's--Part 2: Assuring us of the right to shop

Rolla’s elected officials and the city staff members they hire often show their ability to solve problems and work toward goals creatively.

Such is the case with the Kohl’s financing plan that was recommended by the TIF Commission to the Rolla City Council Oct. 4.

Recapping, here’s the deal: Kohl’s says it needs $7,695,500 to develop a property for a store. The Fortune 500 company has asked the city to subsidize that by $3,300,000. In essence, Kohl’s will lend the city that money, and asks that it be repaid over a term of 23 years, although it could be paid back sooner.

Kohl’s wants only 6 percent interest, so the cost will be another mere $3.2 million.

To pay the principal and interest, which could be as much as $6.5 million, the city will use a combinaton of sales tax generated by the new store, plus the real estate tax on the property Kohl’s wants, which is next to Lowe’s and is visible from the interstate.

As you might expect, this arrangement startles the sensibilities of an old coot like me. I’m accustomed to thinking private businesses identify markets into which they want to expand, then risk some money to build a store and then work hard to make it profitable, all the while paying taxes that help finance the construction and maintenance of streets that lead to the store, assure police and fire protection of the store’s investment and educate children of the community, some of whom might work there.

Having a national company come into the communty and demand to be helped financially, then lend the money to the city so that financial help can be extended, then charge interest on that loan all makes this old hillbilly’s head spin and jaw slacken.

Moreover, I suppose the Kohl’s store also will charge as much as the market will bear for its goods, so shoppers will be paying taxes that will go to Kohl’s, as well as paying prices that will go to Kohl’s.

Don’t mistake my confusion for negativity, though.

I’ve done some research and some questioning and some listening and I’ve learned the vast majority of Rolla residents are eager to shell out that money for Kohl’s.They want it now.

Kohl’s supporters have assured me that we need a Kohl’s store for these beneficial reasons:

1. It will keep people from traveling to St. Louis to shop. With a Kohl’s here,
there will never be a need to drive up to a mall. Money will stay in Rolla.

2. It will attract people from surrounding communities to shop in Rolla. With a
Kohl’s here, those people who had been driving to St. Louis will always drive to
Rolla instead. Money will flow to Rolla.

3. Having a Kohl’s here will attract other national chain stores to Rolla, and national chains are more important than homegrown local businesses because they have name recognition and will attract new residents here so that our population wlll grow and we can attract even more national chain stores for quality shopping.

4. Having a Kohl’s here will give our community a sense of pride, something we sorely lack now because “there’s nothing here.” With Kohl’s here, we’ll finally know that our city is special.

These four benefits have been communicated to me by others; I did not think them
up myself, so please do not give me the credit or the blame. These were told to me by people
who say they’re willing to pay any price to bring a Kohl’s store to Rolla.

And that willingness of Rolla residents to sacrifice and pay any price to obtain important new shopping opportunities is important to consider, honor and respect. It is why I wholeheartedly support the financing plan. I welcome the new economic age. I hope the City Council will move quickly to set in motion whatever it takes to bring Kohl’s to Rolla.

This plan will protect people’s right to shop.--RDH

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