Walmart store, jobs set for Locust Grove

The City of Locust Grove is preparing for the grand opening of a major retail discount chain store.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter store, located at 4949 Bill Gardner Parkway, is scheduled to open its doors on March 16, at 8:15 a.m.

The grand opening will feature community, and business leaders, who will join Wal-Mart associates for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Locust Grove High School Band will perform the national anthem, and a local Boy Scouts of America troop, will present the colors. The store will announce grants to several area organizations. Mayor Lorene Lindsey, and Wal-Mart Store Manager, Steve Briscuso, are scheduled to cut the ribbon to the new store, according to a news release issued the store chain.

The Wal-Mart store is expected to generate 240 jobs, according to its new store manager, Steve Briscuso.

"Most people wanted a Wal-Mart," in the area, said Locust Grove Director of Community Development, Tim Young. He said the city found that public sentiment in a survey conducted in 2006.

"Our plan called for it. Our zoning allowed it, most of our responses were favorable from our citizens..." continued Young. The property, Young added, has been zoned as a commercial area since 1972.

Young anticipates the store will generate new revenues for the city.

"It will contribute, at the beginning, $50 million dollars in retail sales," said Young. "One cent will go to SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), one cent will go to LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) and one cent will go to schools... We get our share of LOST, and SPLOST."

The Community Development Director predicted patrons will travel from as far away as Butts County, to shop at the Locust Grove Wal-Mart.

"They have also built a brand new road [Market Place Boulevard] that connects Bill Gardner Parkway to Highway 42," said Young. Property Investors, Wal-Mart Realty Trust, Shi Investments One LLC, and STLC LLC, paid $33,000 each, and the City of Locust Grove, and Henry County added $100,000 each, to construct an additional turning lane from I-75 northbound, to Tanger Boulevard, along Bill Gardner Parkway.

The new Wal-Mart will not include an automotive section, and it has less storage space, according to store officials. It was originally designed to be 192,000 square feet, but once completed, it will be 155,000 square feet, said Locust Grove Director of Community Development, Tim Young. The reduction in size was due to the economic downturn, explained Young.

"Getting this new Wal-Mart will boost the morale, and the economy, in the area," said Locust Grove Mayor Lindsey," in a Wal-Mart news release of the event.

Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton said he has met with Wal-Mart's Loss Prevention Team, to map plans to deter crime, in, or near, the store.

"They have a state-of-the art surveillance system," said the police chief.

Additional information about Wal-Mart can be found visiting www.walmartstores.com and on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/Walmart.