Haas’ law of borders

I did a lot of car travel around the USA for 15 years while working contracts to provide medical care. Drivers soon finds restaurants and gas stations, and eventually comes to associate concentrations of these with state borders; interestingly, all of the businesses are on one or the other side. The state in which the businesses at the border locate is growing and treats their citizens like adults while the state with empty lots at its borders is paternalistic; it “takes care of people” and has multiple programs to “improve its  economy and children.” Businesses near political boundaries have a choice and find their way to the most profitable situation by avoiding the unnecessary hassles of dealing with fawning politicians.

There is nothing on the Michigan side of I69; the huge truck stops, liquor and cigarette stores are all in Indiana. There is a road in the UP that goes in and out of Michigan and into Wisconsin. The bars, stores, villages are all in Wisconsin, the abandoned fields in Michigan.

‘South of the Border’ is a village that caters to travelers going down to Florida from NY City  on I95. It advertises for 75 miles in each direction and lurks in South Carolina just before North Carolina. No one eats or gets gas in NC.

As one goes north from El Paso on I10, the 94 store manufacturers outlet (visible, I used it all the time when hiking the Franklin Mountains 10 miles away) and Petro, Flying J all crowd on the Texas side. A few miles north in New Mexico there are 3-5 miles of Holstein cows (7200 on one count) eating alfalfa on the windward side of the interstate; one can feel one’s lungs turning brown. A further 300 miles north on I25, the resort town of Raton in New  Mexico denied Walmart’s request to have a store built there because they didn’t want commercial activity. The company invested 25 miles further north into Colorado. Ratonites travel 25 miles over a mountain for ordinary shopping. Thank you, city commission and the NM state government.

The Trader Joe’s and its probable minimal impact on us ordinary folk reminded me that we in Kentwood needn’t go 25 miles over a mountain when shopping for ordinary groceries and other minor purchases but we do face irritants. There are 2 Walmarts, one in Cascade and the other in Wyoming, and 3 Meijers, one in Cascade, another in Gaines township, and the original Meijer’s Thrifty Acres at 28th on Kalamazoo. The Family Fare hovers just north of 44th street. They form a nearly perfect circle around Kentwood. There are several stores for groceries in Kentwood like Horrocks, Green market and Sam’s, but none are family friendly (25 lb sugar bags at Sam’s, ladies at Horrocks walking around carrying wineglasses-odd.) The Meijers on Kalamazoo and Woodland mall were there since time immemorial. Other big stores like Home Depot and the assorted furniture, baby places have settled here since the city was founded in 1967, and they may be indifferent to political boundaries or have smaller needs.

Almost everyone in Kentwood has to get into a car to do weekly shopping, and the trips are usually several miles. We go 2.5 miles one way to the Meijers in Kentwood. I have walked or biked over there, but traffic on 28th street is a hassle and it’s cold sometimes…..

I’d hate to apply my law to a small entity like a city; the variables are too lumpy.  Nevertheless, having to use a car is an ongoing vexation. The relevant governmental question is of course, are  these large retailers avoiding Kentwood or is it purely random placement? Maybe the zoning, traffic and open land were only available in Wyoming, Cascade, etc, when these retailers were ready to build. But I submit, that at least some of our inconveniences grew directly out of our Zoning and Planning which separated dwellings, commercial activity and workplaces.

We shop weekly for groceries, and only yearly for hardware. Walmart and Meijers pay substantial taxes, non to Kentwood. And the costs of those out of town trips add up.

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