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Courting Walmart: Silvis city administrator talks what they did to secure the retail giant

SILVIS, Illinois — There is a lot that has to be done by a city government in order to land a retail giant like Walmart, it's a process to which both Silvis and Rock Island can attest, but their outcomes are vastly different.

Walmart announced this week it would not be building a store in Rock Island, a disappointing decision to city leaders who had been working on a deal with Walmart for four years.

"I've learned that nothing is for sure until they sign the bottom line or they actually start construction," said Jim Grafton, City Administrator and Director of Public works for the City of Silvis, which has a population of nearly 8,000.

In 2008, Walmart opened a superstore in Silvis. Prior to the superstore being built, the City made $2.5 million worth of investments to get the site ready.

"We had to deal with a lighted intersection we had to deal with the DOT, we had issues with the Indiana Bat, we had historical preservation we had to deal with, Indian burial grounds we had to contend with, we had to relocate a church," said Grafton, adding that all of those steps took "quite a bit of work".

Ultimately, Grafton says the City is proud of the Walmart in their town.

"It was quite a process, but we persevered and obviously made it happen," said Grafton.

For Grafton, the difficulty in courting a new business is the uncertainty of whether the deal will come to fruition, but with a retailer like Walmart, which was set to bring hundreds of jobs and over a million dollars in sales tax to Rock Island, it's worth it to endure the at times grueling and pricey process.

"We're not only in competition with our neighboring state, we're in competition with our neighboring communities. The work involved, that is part of the job and at the end of the day, if the project doesn't materialize, that we've learned something and maybe next time we wont do the same thing again and do something different to attract that business," said Grafton.