Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wal-Mart Partners With Army Reserve

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Associated Press
November 12, 2008

http://www. military. com/news/article/wal-mart-partners-with-army-reserve. html

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
has signed on to an Army Reserve program that allows the company and the Army to work together to recruit and train people interested in serving in the military and working for the giant retailer.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest private employer, has more than 1.4 million U.S.
employees.

An agreement signed Tuesday obligates Wal-Mart to interview and consider all qualified, participating soldiers for employment after they complete military occupational specialty training.

Lt. Gen. Jack C.
Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, was in Bentonville for the Veterans Day signing of the agreement.

When a reserve soldier who works at Wal-Mart is called to service, the company can draw on 1 million or so citizen soldiers to help identify a qualified replacement to work in the soldier's place.
The arrangement is expected to lower costs of recruiting and training for Wal-Mart.

The Army Reserve launched the program in April and has already linked with numerous companies, including Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., Sears Holding Corp., Manpower Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp.
, among others.

The program also helps the Army find trained professionals.

"I'm honored to officially begin an enduring partnership with a company of such impressive stature, the nation's largest private employer," Stultz said.
"Wal-Mart has been a great friend to the military, and I look forward to collaborating with our newest valued partner to achieve mutual goals to attract, develop and retain a quality workforce".

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott said the agreement fits with Wal-Mart's way of providing
employment.

"Our company has a longstanding commitment to providing employment opportunities in the community.
We have also long recognized those who serve in the military, and it is a privilege to assist the troops and their families with this new initiative," Scott said.

Wal-Mart has taken part in a number of other military-related programs, including one to help children deal with the stress of military life and providing pre-paid phone cards to deployed troops.

******************

Wal-Mart's data center remains mystery


The Joplin Globe
By Max McCoy
Globe Investigative Writer

http://www. joplinglobe. com/local/local_story_148015054

JANE, Mo.
- Call it Area 71

Behind a fence topped with razor wire just off U.S.
Highway 71 is a bunker of a building that Wal-Mart considers so secret that it won't even let the county assessor inside without a nondisclosure agreement.

The 125,000-square-foot building, tucked behind a new Wal-Mart Supercenter, is only a stone's throw from the Arkansas line and about 15 miles from corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

There is nothing about the building to give even a hint that Wal-Mart owns it.

Despite the glimpses through the fence of manicured grass and carefully placed trees, the overall impression is that this is a secure site that could withstand just about anything. Earth is packed against the sides. The green roof - meant, perhaps, to blend into the surrounding Ozarks hills - bristles with dish antennas.
On one of the heavy steel gates at the guardhouse is a notice that visitors must use the intercom for
assistance.

What the building houses is a mystery.

Speculation

Wal-Mart's ability to crunch numbers is a favorite of conspiracy theorists, and its data centers are the corporate counterpart to Area 51 at Groom Lake in the state of Nevada.
According to one consumer activist, Katherine Albrecht, even the wildest conspiracy buff might be surprised at just how much Wal-Mart knows about its customers - and how much more it would like to know.

"We were contacted about two years ago by somebody who runs a security company that had been asked in a request for proposals for ways they could link video footage with customers paying for their purchases," Albrecht said. "Wal-Mart would actually be able to view photos and video of customers paying, say, for a pack of gum.
At the time, it struck me as unbelievably outlandish because of the amount of data storage required".

But Wal-Mart, according to a 2004 New York Times article, had enough storage capacity to contain twice the amount of all the information available on the Internet. For the technically minded, the exact amount was for 460 terabytes of data.
The prefix tera comes from the Greek word for monster, and a terabyte is a trillion bytes, the basic unit of computer storage.

Albrecht, founder of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, said she never could confirm the contractor's story.
That is not surprising, since Wal-Mart seldom comments on its data capabilities and operations.

A Globe request for information about the Jane data center was referred at Wal-Mart headquarters to Carrie Thum, a senior information officer and former lobbyist for the retailer.

"This is not something that we discuss publicly," Thum said. "We have no comment.
And that's off the
record".

Skeleton crew

The Jane data center is an enigmatic icon to the power of data, which has helped Wal-Mart become the largest retailer in the world, and to the corporation's growing secrecy since founder Sam Walton's death in 1992.
When Wal-Mart constructed its primary data center at corporate headquarters in 1989, it wasn't much of a secret: It was the largest poured concrete structure in Arkansas at the time, and Walton himself ordered a third story.

"Not only had we completely designed it, we were under construction," said Bill Ferguson, a founder of Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects in Memphis, Tenn.
"They were pouring foundations, and Sam walked across the parking lot one Friday at the end of the day and said, 'You know, let's add a third floor and put some people up there'".

Ferguson said the Bentonville data center is built on bedrock and is designed to withstand most natural and man-made disasters, but is not impregnable.
The biggest danger, he said, is the area's frequently
violent thunderstorms.

"We studied making it tornado-proof, which is difficult," he said. "We calculated the probability of a category 5 tornado hitting it, which was less likely than an airplane crashing into it head-on.
At the time, they decided not to".

Since then, Ferguson said, changes have been made to increase the integrity of the structure.
The data center was designed with backup generators, fuel on site, and room and board for a skeleton crew in the event an emergency required an extended stay.

Ferguson said his firm learned to design data centers by working with FedEx, which also is based in Memphis, and that the 1989 Wal-Mart data center was built so that it could communicate via any means available - including copper wire, fiber optics and satellites.

The firm no longer works with Wal-Mart, and Ferguson said he had no knowledge of the design or purpose of the data center in Jane.
But he suggested that Jim Liles, a Memphis engineer, might know.

Liles said he was a consultant on the Jane project, and that Crossland Construction was the contractor, but he was reluctant to say much else.
"As far as what its purpose is, all that has to come from Wal-Mart," Liles said.

Crossland Construction, based in Columbus, Kan., said Tim Oelke of the company's Rogers, Ark., office had been in charge.
Oelke did not return a phone call seeking comment.

'Never saw a plan'

The data center was completed in 2004 and was part of a project that included the Supercenter, which opened early last year, and a warehouse.
The resulting economic impact on McDonald County, known for its rolling hills and lazy rivers, is difficult to underestimate, said Rusty Enlow.

"Just a few years ago, one new store would have been a big deal," Enlow said. "And I'm not talking about a Supercenter.
Just a gas station would have generated excitement".

Now, Enlow said, the county's tax base has doubled, and land is going for about $2,100 an acre, about twice what it was before the project was announced in 2001.

Enlow is chairman of the county planning commission, a body created by popular vote in 1964 but which had not met until this month. Enlow said he doesn't know why the commission never met, but he believes it was because whatever problem prompted its creation was solved before the board was appointed.
He also said he's not sure the planning commission has any real authority, or would want any (there is no zoning in the county), but that he and the other 18 members are eager to bring even more business into the
county.

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