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Wal-Mart’s win in Chicago could pave wave for big urban push

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Chicago The Chicago City Council's unanimous vote on Wednesday to approve a zoning change that clears the way for construction of the city's second Wal-Mart may also open the way for a big push by the retailer not only in Chicago but urban areas throughout the nation.

“On the corridor from Boston to [Washington] D.C., Wal-Mart is so under-penetrated,” said David Strasser, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott, in The New York Times. “That opportunity is tremendous, and if you’re seeing that mentality from the unions in Chicago, you’re going to see that in the northeast corridor.”

The vote to allow a Super Wal-Mart to be built on Chicago’s Far South Side came after a six-year battle that pitted Wal-Mart, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce against unions, labor-backed aldermen and various social activists.

But with the recession and high unemployment, the promise of the jobs and the tax revenue that the new store would create have dimmed some of the opposition. However, to win approval from politicians and other groups, Wal-Mart also made some concessions. For example, the Chicago stores will all be union-built. Also, the company agreed to an entry-level wage of $8.75 an hour, 50 cents above Illinois' minimum wage, with a raise of 40 cents to 60 cents an hour after one year.

Several days prior to the vote. Wal-Mart said it was planning several dozen stores in Chicago that would add 12,000 jobs over five years, and more than $500 million in sales taxes and property taxes for the city, according to the company’s estimates.

“We have already started to identify additional opportunities across the City that will help more Chicagoans save money and live better,” Hank Mullany, executive VP and president of Wal-Mart’s northern U.S. division, said in a statement following the vote.

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