The West Bank of the Detroit River

The Freep this morning says Wal-Mart is adding stores to Michigan. Super-grocery competitor Meijer is doing the same thing…

That makes price-chopping Wal-Mart one of the few national retailers taking a chance on Michigan as the economy has worsened. Its main competitor here, Grand Rapids-based Meijer, also continues to expand in the state.

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So, hooray! Two big retail chains want to invest capital in Michigan and create jobs!

But wait. This reminds me of something else I read recently…

Detroit grocers worried about competition chain will provide


Aug. 15, 2009

When Farmer Jack pulled its last stores out of Michigan two years ago, there was little hope that Detroit would attract a major chain grocer.

The city, which is home to dozens of successful independent grocery stores, has some neighborhoods with few food options. Many people leave the city to shop for food. [emphasis added]

A community coalition is working to reopen the former Farmer Jack on Jefferson Avenue as a community-run grocery store. Two other small markets -- Zaccaro's in Midtown and Downtown Foodland in Lafayette Park -- were both open less than a year. And a fire has shut down Harbortown Market on Jefferson until September.

Jane Shallal, president of the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers in Farmington Hills, said that the independent grocers are concerned about the competition Meijer will bring.

"Clearly it's going to affect our businesses. They can't compete with Meijer's prices," she said. "I know they are a little bit alarmed, but we keep telling them if they offer good service and multicultural products, they will survive."

People must leave the city to shop for food??? The definition of a “third world” economy surely has many criteria, but high up on the list would be the inability to locate a single major grocery store in a city of more than 600,000 residents (or whatever Detroit now has), and forcing many people to flee the borders to voluntarily purchase the basic necessities of life.

And tellingly, according to the Freep this morning, it appears that Wal-Mart can read the “Keep Out” signs. New stores are conspicuously going everywhere BUT a certain set of Michigan zip codes in Wayne County…

Wal-Mart has opened new stores this year in Sault Ste. Marie and Hartland and expanded the Fenton store.

New stores opening in September are in Saline and Monroe with an expansion in Canton, Infante said. October openings of expanded stores are in Woodhaven, Belleville and Traverse City. A new Clinton Township store is to open in November.

Wal-Mart also plans three new stores for 2010 in White Lake Township, Livonia and Canton Township.

I used to live in White Lake. There’s already a Wal-Mart there; and a Meijer; and White Lake has a LOT fewer people than Detroit. Wal-Mart’s website also reports an existing store in Livonia. But even with the market saturation, Wal-Mart is doubling down its bet in these suburbs – during a recession – and still not touching Detroit.

By contrast, a recent column in the Wall Street Journal tells of another greatly-depressed economy and dysfunctional political system that’s finally getting its act together…

Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today's gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.

Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.

Whoa, State-of-the-art shopping malls? In the West Bank? How’d we get this? Any lessons for Detroit?

Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.

More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.

Nice. I wonder if you have to leave town to buy groceries?