If Wal-Mart builds it, jobs will come. At least that's the hope and one that's a lot closer to reality today than at any time in the past four years.
Thanks to the California Supreme Court, an effort to block construction of a huge Wal-Mart distribution center was rejected last week when the justices declined to hear an appeal by opponents of the project.
The high court upheld an appeals court decision in favor of the city. Opponents had challenged the city's environmental review of the project, but the courts didn't find merit in those claims.
Now it's time to move on, encourage Wal-Mart to build the project and put some Mercedians to work at the 1.2-million-square- foot facility, planned for south of Childs Avenue at the northwest corner of Gerard Avenue and Tower Road.
The project is expected to bring in an initial 600 jobs and eventually as many as 1,200, according to city officials. An average wage for workers there was estimated at $17.50 an hour.
It's too bad the project got bogged down in the courts. Those jobs could have been an important source of income for Mercedians during a brutal recession that has battered the region's economy since late 2006, with unemployment in the county topping 20 percent.
There have been questions about how many of those distribution jobs would go to Mercedians. Certainly distribution jobs are becoming increasingly technical, but a large chunk of the 18,000 unemployed in the county are more than capable of doing the work.
What a Wal-Mart distribution center does is give the county a diversity of employment options for its work force. While high-paying university jobs are great, solid blue-collar jobs are just as essential for lowering jobless rates and raising the economic outlook across the board.
Meanwhile, the county is poised to move ahead with the Atwater-Merced Expressway project, a major transportation and commerce artery. UC Merced also is looking at working with private firms for the construction of facilities as well as relocating some staff downtown.
Whether all of these things bring the opportunity and prosperity the region needs remains to be seen.
The city has much work ahead, possibly for two years, before Wal-Mart breaks ground on the distribution center. But the city staff and leadership deserve credit for doing what was required in the environmental review so the process could move forward.
The city has to do some tough negotiating with Wal-Mart to make sure the project delivers on its promise and has to mitigate much of the concern that's been expressed.
Other businesses should take notice. Merced officials have shown they not only are willing to work with them, but more than capable of helping them clear the many hurdles to doing business in this state.
And that's what being business friendly is all about.