Harold S. Geneen


As the saying goes “if it is too good to be true, it probably is.” And when it is about your community sometimes it is hard to look at something that is too good to be true and walk away from it. After all we all know that business in rural towns is difficult and under attack.

One church group has a consultant that comes into a congregation when the membership and income is going down. The expert analyses what may be the cause of the decline in attendance and giving. The first question he asks is “has a new Wal Mart opened within 20 miles of town or in the town?” The track record of this happening is an average of seven local businesses going out of business. That is seven or more families out of work and could mean many more who were employed by them.

The progression of Wal-Mart was the smaller ‘Neighborhood Markets’. Which proved the same results in smaller communities and also proved to not be profitable enough for the business model of Wal-Mart. After devastating the towns they moved into they were closed down.

There are many groups and professors that have been researching the actual reasons that rural towns are decreasing in size and prosperity. One is Dr. David Procter of Kansas State University. Someone had the idea to get his assistance and provide facts and figures at the City Council meeting at Buhler Kansas when Dollar General was asking to locate there.

Armed with ten years of research and all the facts and figures the council and community was able to calmly go through the facts and make a decision. Dollar General has been rapidly expanding through out the plains from Texas to North Dakota. Although the stores are not overly large they carry dry goods and some carry more in the grocery line than others. The effect is that enough business is lost by the small grocery stores in towns they go into suffering a large percentage of lost income.

Dr. Proctor is with the Rural Grocery Initiative through Kansas State University. The purpose is to look at what causes loss of local grocery stores and how small communities can recover from losing their stores.

Also the Buhler City Council asked neighbors who would be directly impacted by the location of the new store. The results were almost 100% negative to the location of the new store.

There was also the actual experience of neighboring Haven. The City of Haven had not only allowed a new Dollar General, but also granted incentives for the store to be located there. The result was that the local grocery lost 40% of it’s income and that loss has facilitated its closing. The Main Street in Haven now has only one or two retail businesses left.

Buhler is a very business friendly town and their main street is prospering with many businesses that local residents have created. Many people go to Buhler for these shops even though they are not on a main highway, (only 2 county paved roads). Shoppers go to Buhler because they want to. There is a nice little grocery store on main that is a mainstay of the town (good sausage too). The loss of the grocery would have an affect on the community.

With a very calm and courteous decision the council rejected the zoning change allowing Dollar General to locate there. Each commissioner explained how they arrived at their decisions.

The moral is that if something appears to be too good to be true it likely is. The well presented case from the company was systematically examined by the community and the right decision for them was made.

I congratulate the Council and community for making a well thought out decision that was best for the area.

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