I was astonished by the news that one of the regions' most prominent longtime businesses, Hank's Thriftway in Cornelius, was going to radically 'remake' itself.

One reason given for the change was to adjust to the shifting demographics of the area, to better serve the growing Hispanic population. This is both good business and good citizenship, of course.

But the final decision to make the change, says co-owner Tom Evans, was 'because of Wal-Mart.'

Yet, Wal-Mart is by no means a 'done deal.' As the national news pays more attention to the giant multinational's predatory and sordid business practices and more communities shut it out, Wal-Mart still relies on public fear and resignation in the face of its vast wealth and influence.

But Wal-Mart can be defeated. Right now, the Cornelius City Council's ill-advised (and by no means unanimous) decision to allow a giant 'supercenter' at the traffic choke-point between Cornelius and Forest Grove, is being appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals.

The grounds of that appeal are quite strong. And LUBA has rejected Wal-Mart in other cases.

Mr. Evans' hopeful note that 'Wal-Mart definitely doesn't' cater to the Hispanic market is likely to prove a vain hope. Wal-Mart has gained its present power by being 'all things to all men,' systematically undercutting and destroying smaller businesses- and the small towns that support them.

If Wal-Mart sees a profit in the Hispanic community, it will move to monopolize that also.

Should Hank's evolve for the future? Certainly it should.

Should our community meekly surrender to an 'inevitable' Wal-Mart victory?

Certainly not! The survival of our downtown districts and our local jobs are at stake. Cornelius First! and other volunteer citizens' groups have been at the forefront of the battle against Wal-Mart.

Local business owners and workers have a great stake in that fight.

And the fight is by no means over.

Walt Wentz lives in Forest Grove

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