Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen
Columnist 

'Big box' shutdowns blow to city

 

January 10, 2018



Tucumcari’s Kmart store, which survived numerous announcements of Sears and Kmart store shutdowns over the past several years, finally got its death notice last week.

It will shut down in early April, according to Sears Holdings, which owns or controls Sears and Kmart stores throughout the U.S.

This means Tucumcari and Quay County no longer have a “big box” store.

ALCO, the other big box store, shut down in early 2015, due to the bankruptcy of its parent company.

By comparison, waiting for the closing of the Kmart has been like getting pecked to death by ducks. Kmart and Sears stores, both properties of Sears Holdings, Inc., have been shutting down in dribs and drabs nationwide for at least five years.

The Tucumcari Kmart’s shutdown is one more major blow to the city and Quay County, but local conditions are not to blame for this one.

Retail stores have become an endangered species with the advent of online shopping that allows people to buy stuff by moving no more than a finger on a mouse or a touchscreen.

In addition, Sears Holdings in recent years has been run by Eddie Lampert, whose background is in financial parlor tricks, since he’s a former hedge-fund manager.

Hedge-fund management consists mainly of creating money without creating wealth, and was a key factor, among others, in why the housing bubble of the 2000s led to the crash of 2008.

Lampert has tried stock buybacks at the expense of investing in stores and real estate tricks, like selling the property the stores sit on, but then paying rent to keep the stores running on those sites.

That works really well for him, because he also runs the company that buys the property. Wealth doesn’t increase, however, unless people actually buy more stuff at the stores.

No matter.

The question for Quay County is what now?

Nobody seems to be investing in rural America these days, and counties like ours keep fading economically.

Further, New Mexico is becoming less attractive as a place to invest even as next door neighbors Arizona, Texas and Colorado seem to be thriving.

We can hope for the long-awaited racino, but the longer this issue lingers, the plainer it becomes that we must develop other prospects while we wait.

No other big-business savior seems to be on the horizon, either.

The consensus among local economic leaders seems to be that we have to do it on our own, slowly but surely.

That means figuring out what we’re good at and building on it, maybe one small opportunity at a time.

We’re good at hospitality, tourism and agriculture. We have rail and Interstate access, and Mesalands Community College.

We’re developing our workforce and sprucing up our communities to attract investors inside the county and out.

We’re working on it, but we’re going to need time, effort, patience, a little luck, and a lot of faith in ourselves.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

stevenmhansen@plateautel.net

 

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