Rock Island hopes to duplicate Silvis’ success with Wal-Mart

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Rock Island's unanimous decision to build a Wal-Mart is all about economics. The Watch Tower Plaza location will create nearly 400 jobs and bring in an estimated $1.3 million yearly in sales tax revenue.

The Wal-Mart bounce is a proven model for local communities looking to spark economic development.

In nearby Silvis, The Wal-Mart Supercenter is a big anchor for economic development.

"It's a home run," said Silvis City Administrator Jim Grafton. "This is a grand slam for us."

As customers take advantage of one-stop shopping, the store brings in more than $500,000 in sales tax revenue each year. That's allowing Silvis to keep property tax rates steady in uncertain times.

That added revenue has allowed Silvis to pay for everything from road expansions to water pipes that it otherwise couldn't afford.

"They see what I see," Grafton continued. "There's development opportunities. And Aldi sees it, too."

When Aldi opened its new store in Silvis just last week, more than 100 shoppers filed in with their shopping carts. This beehive of activity exceeded the grocer's expectations and proved that Silvis has found a new market in more ways than food.

"Everyone likes to save money if they don't have to give up the quality," said Heather Moore, an Aldi vice president, during the grand opening.

While Wal-Mart has its detractors for its policies and Big Box mentality, like it or not, this supercenter is sparking a retail boom in Silvis. It offers the same kind of sales success that Rock Island can duplicate.

As Rock Island aldermen approved a Wal-Mart deal on Monday night, it means new hope for the Watch Tower Plaza corridor. The city defied the odds to land a big fish.

"We've been making changes in Rock Island," said Mayor Dennis Pauley. "We've been trying to attract people, and now it's starting to develop."

They like to call the area along Route 5 the "Miracle Mile" in Silvis. Other new businesses are opening near Wal-Mart. And For Sale signs prove there's room to grow.

For Grafton, it comes down to making Silvis a more family-friendly community.

"We not only want to be a great place to shop, but really the primary objective is a great place to live," he concluded.

In Silvis, retail development is making it a reality.