LEWISTON – People have protested the arrival of Wal-Mart in some towns but the discounter has grown so fast since it first came to Maine in 1992 that the company is considering a major distribution hub.
The City Council will take up a multimillion dollar financing package next week for a distribution center in Lewiston to service 15 Wal-Mart stores, five Wal-Mart Supercenters and three Sam’s Club stores in Maine.
Councilors will hold a public hearing on Dec. 28 on the tax increment financing district needed to make the project a reality.
TIFs typically call for a portion of taxes being paid by a business to be refunded to the company for a set period of years.
The Sun Journal first reported last month that city and state officials were in discussions with a developer for a massive distribution center. Sources told the newspaper it would be 900,000 square feet and employ 600 people.
Wages were said to be in the range of $11 an hour to start and the full-time jobs would come with a bevy of benefits.
The newspaper said the scope of the project has changed since the initial reports but the nature of the changes is unclear.
Wal-Mart recently branched into the sales of fresh and frozen foods at its Supercenters in Maine. The largest of those opened in October in Auburn, home to a 275,000-square-foot store.
Wal-Mart has guarded its privacy throughout the process. The city has been negotiating the deal for months, said Mayor Kaileigh Tara.
She said she was not sure of the details of the TIF agreement, but said she’s confident it’s one the city can live with.
“In exchange for some
investment from the community, the council was looking to
attract jobs – jobs with good benefits. We feel that we have that with this proposal,” Tara
In addition, the state is said
to be offering financial
incentives. The state can rebate personal property taxes paid
on certain equipment through
its Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program and also can earmark a portion
of taxes linked to payroll for some business development purposes.
Conrad Welzel, the Maine Turnpike Authority’s government relations director, confirmed that he met with local officials to make certain Exit 13 traffic continues to function smoothly when the center goes into operation.
One possible option to improve traffic flow would be to build a ramp from the turnpike directly to the distribution center.