Here's my point:
1) It wasn't cost-effective for Walmart to do this, and Walmart has extraordinary price leverage that the fine folx of backwater West Virginia lack. Walmart has a nasty tendency to subsidize its stores early in their cycle; this particular Walmart (and Walmarts like it) likely didn't survive the costs/benefits analysis on further subsidy.
2) The services provided prior to the existence of Walmart were likely provided elsewhere, on a smaller scale, at a higher profit margin, not under one costly roof. Those services were also likely endangered by a shift in buying habits across the decades; there's no more Radio Shack, supermarkets have become huge, nobody buys books or records anymore (yes, hipster, I know you do, and your purchases have barely broached the noise floor) and even sporting goods come from giant retailers like Cabela's or Scheel's.
There's no way to put a happy face on this - shit be bleak. But Kimball, WV had 400 people in 2000. It had 260 in 2010. In 2006 they opened a Walmart.
When Wal-Mart moved in to Kimball 10 years ago, McDowell County was in much better shape, according to McKinney.
But then the mines started closing.
Last year, there were 34 underground mines in the region.
Now there are 13.
With the mines went the train jobs, the mechanic jobs and the car dealers. Now, houses are vacant with caved in roofs. Storefronts are boarded.
“You’re just afraid to get up every morning,” McKinney said. “When you get up you think, ‘OK, today what’s going to close? Who’s going to lay off?’ You would pray, but our tax base is basically zeroed out.”
Wal-Mart paid around $65,000 in taxes to McDowell County last year and 80 percent of that money goes to the local school board. With coal severance tax and business and occupation tax down, the county is left scrambling, trying to figure out how to support the community.
“We cried all day yesterday,” McKinney said later. “We cried and it’s done.”
I've heard it said that Shake Shack has a higher market cap than the entire coal industry. And coal is super-bad for the environment and we all can't wait to shut down the mines and and and. But coal mining is labor-intensive and provides a lot of jobs. Jobs that have been steadily declining since they all went to North Dakota and Wyoming when fracking became a thing.
Circle of life, man. It sucks, but unless West Virginia figures out something to do other than mine coal, it's gonna be a rugged place to live.