Sweetwater officials hope for economic boon from new Walmart

Sweetwater officials hope for economic boon from new Walmart

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Truckloads of merchandise were being unloaded and shelves were being stocked in time for the opening on September 11. Truckloads of merchandise were being unloaded and shelves were being stocked in time for the opening on September 11.
Owners of some downtown businesses are concerned about the impact Walmart would have on their businesses. Owners of some downtown businesses are concerned about the impact Walmart would have on their businesses.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

SWEETWATER (WATE) - A new Walmart superstore will open its doors in less than a month in the city of Sweetwater.

The new store is located on State Highway 11 near the intersection of State Highway 68.

City leaders are expecting the store do much for the community's economy.

It was crunch time Tuesday for the staff getting the store ready for customers.

Truckloads of merchandise were being unloaded and shelves were being stocked in time for the opening on September 11.

The Sweetwater store is smaller than most other Walmart stores.

"It looks like a place you want to shop. The company has really invested to make sure it's an inviting store for everyone," said Casillas.

The store is expected to employ a total of 270 people, including 20 managers.

Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe estimates the store could add close to $500,000 in sales tax revenue in a year.

"We anticipate a nice economic development from it, not just now, but for years to come from," said Mayor Lowe.

Lowe says more people will come into Sweetwater when the store opens. He says the added exposure will help some of the smaller business in the area.

Owners of some downtown businesses are concerned about the impact Walmart would have on their businesses.

"We're not really excited about it," said Joey Exum, manager of Wright's Hardware Store in downtown Sweetwater.

Exum says he expects to lose business when Walmart first opens, but hopes it is only temporary.

Wright's Hardware has been in operation for more than 100 years.

"I don't think the drop in sales will last very long. The newness will wear off. The people will realize the customer service aspect here at the mom and pop places are so much better," said Exum.

Officials say Walmart will keep residents from leaving town to shop. Many travel up to 20 minutes to go to surrounding cities like Madisonville or Athens.

"Everybody shops at Walmart. It will be here and convenient," said Sweetwater resident Alyssa Bradley.

The city hopes Walmart is just the beginning of new development.

The city is negotiating to acquire an 84-acre plot of land next door to Walmart to develop for additional retail and restaurants.

The store's manager says they are still hiring cashiers, truck unloaders and entry level managers.

Walmart says an average associate working in Tennessee is paid $13 an hour.

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