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    Wal-Mart to Deepen Investment in Struggling Communities, Minority Vendors with New Initiative

    CHICAGO -- In a speech yesterday at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention here, Wal-Mart Stores' c.e.o. Lee Scott unveiled the retailer's latest PR and business initiative, "Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones," a nationwide plan to build more than 50 stores in neighborhoods with high crime or unemployment rates, on sites that are environmentally contaminated, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization, over the next two years.

    CHICAGO -- In a speech yesterday at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention here, Wal-Mart Stores' c.e.o. Lee Scott unveiled the retailer's latest PR and business initiative, "Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones," a nationwide plan to build more than 50 stores in neighborhoods with high crime or unemployment rates, on sites that are environmentally contaminated, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization, over the next two years.

    Wal-Mart expects the new stores to create between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs. Many of which will be in minority communities, and should generate more than $100 million in state and local tax revenue for these communities, according to Scott.

    "Wal-Mart has never been afraid to invest in communities that are overlooked by other retailers," he said. "Where those businesses see difficulty, we see opportunity. That is who Wal-Mart has always been, and that is who we remain today. This is a commitment to reach beyond our stores, to further engage the community, and to offer an even greater economic boost to people and neighborhoods that need Wal-Mart the most."

    Before his speech, Scott visited the construction site of a new Wal-Mart store on the West Side of Chicago, and announced that this store will anchor the first Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zone.

    Each of the 10 Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones will be anchored by a store and engage a host of local businesses and organizations with which the company will work to increase job creation and economic opportunity in surrounding neighborhoods, said Scott. The locations of the remaining nine zones will be announced in the coming months.

    The initiative will include the following moves in each zone:

    -- Wal-Mart will work with store managers to identify up to five local businesses per quarter as "Small Business Spotlights."

    -- The company will feature these small businesses in local newspaper advertising and will also offer to produce free radio ads and broadcast them on its in-store radio network.

    -- Wal-Mart will establish a Wal-Mart Business Development Team, which will hold seminars for small businesses on best practices for how to thrive with a Wal-Mart in their community.

    -- The company will also produce an annual "Wal-Mart Trends Report" that it will share exclusively with the small business community.

    -- Wal-Mart will donate a total of $500,000 from the Wal-Mart Foundation to local chambers of commerce, including many minority chambers.

    -- The company will work with these chambers to create and identify effective programs for this funding. These resources could be used in a variety of ways, including to develop Web sites, sponsor community events, or host business improvement sessions.

    -- Wal-Mart will also hold "Working with Wal-Mart" sessions, designed to help local, minority, and women-owned businesses learn first hand how to do business with Wal-Mart.

    WakeUpWalMart.com, a labor-backed group that has been a vocal critic of much of Wal-Mart's practices, called the program a PR stunt.

    "In the face of a faltering public image, Wal-Mart seems determined to launch almost daily public relations stunts that speak loudly about change, but fall terribly short," said campaign director Paul Blank in a statement.

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