Local town embraces Walmart superstore

The »Play Video
The "Super Walmart" under construction in Cornelius, Ore. The store is expected to open in September.

CORNELIUS, Ore. – More than 1,500 people are trying to get jobs at the new "Super Walmart" opening in Cornelius in September.

At a Walmart job fair Saturday, locals met at the Cornelius City County Chambers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to gather more information on a career for America's largest retailer. The event was co-sponsored with the City of Cornelius. 

So, while some communities are putting up roadblocks or even protesting Walmart's arrival, this town is welcoming the big-box retailer. After all, a new Super Walmart could mean revitalization.

Fred Koehnke, for example, has been out of work for two-months. And he's excited about the prospect of an employer, and place to shop, in this sleepy Portland metropolitan-area town.

It will "bring some life to Cornelius," said Koehnke from the job fair. "There ain't much here."
A job for Fred means so much more than just a dual income in this recession.

"We'll be able to keep our home," said his wife Jodi.

These are jobs that, for many of the applicants, would lessen the money stress in their home. This also presents an employment opportunity without having to leave town to find work.
It's a common problem here, where the unemployed have to drive long distances to work elsewhere.

"We have a job/housing imbalance," said Cornelius City Manager Dave Waffle. "And the opportunity to have jobs right here in Cornelius really means a lot."

For some people, just the idea of getting a job at this new store means they financially may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. For others, a job at Walmart could mean the start to a whole new life.

Damaris Torres is hoping to snag a cashier position after being on an unsuccessful job hunt for a year. She is just graduating from high school and trying to find a way to put herself through college.

"My parents work [and] don't make a lot of money," Torres said. "And I want to help them."

Walmart officials said the 155,000-square-foot super center is offering benefits – including health care – for all positions. This past week we also learned the retailer is teaming with American Public University online to help Walmart's 1.4 million employees advance their education.

"According to a recent Walmart survey, 72 percent of the 32,000 associates responding said they preferred an online university over other options," according to the online university's website. "The breadth of 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees that APU offers in a flexible online format should make it an attractive option for Walmart associates.  Interested associates may apply immediately for courses starting in September."

Employees will get a 15 percent discount on tuition. They also could receive credit for training they got on the job.

These advantages leave the handful of hopefuls at the weekend job far enthusiastic, but far from alone. Walmart officials said 1,600 people have applied for the 300 full- and part-time positions available at the new store.

The flier for this weekend's job fair:

Related resources: