Early Briefing: Surviving Near Wal-Mart

*Wal-Mart opened its store in Landover Hills in Prince George's County -- the first inside the Beltway -- in a storm of controversy last year bred in part by its reputation for running small businesses out of the rural towns and suburbs that for decades were the retailer's breeding ground. There was concern that the so-called Wal-Mart effect would be replicated, if not magnified, once it moved into more urban areas, such as Landover Hills.

No comprehensive study has been done on Wal-Mart's impact on this stretch of Annapolis Road, the heart of this redeveloping neighborhood. But local proprietors and community leaders say the fears have not panned out. Some say the dour economy has been a bigger threat than Wal-Mart. Other store owners credit Wal-Mart for boosting their sales, through both its proximity and community outreach programs.

*Chindex's business plan has involved targeting the elite members of society, who are willing to pay premium prices for premium care. The Bethesda company has opened Western-style hospitals and clinics in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to cater to affluent expatriates and wealthy Chinese. Staffed by foreign doctors and some of China's top physicians, its fees -- as much as several hundred U.S. dollars for a single visit, versus compared with just $10 or $20 at a state-owned hospital -- are too high for most ordinary Chinese, who make that much in a month.

The company is working to expand but running up against increased competition and lack of insurance products.

Check out our Post 200 Roadshow visit to Chindex, in which we learn why it's based in Bethesda and talk to the chief executive.

*The sagging national economy is widening the gap locally between people who work for the giant base of consulting and technology firms that rely on the government for revenue and lower- and middle-income people in jobs exposed to the downturn, such as retail and construction.

As some companies around the country pull back and lay off workers, government services firms are keeping overall rates of employment high in the Washington area. But people of more modest means are feeling pinched by increases in the prices of everyday goods, especially gasoline and utility bills, utilities. These costs that are rising faster in the Washington area than in many other places.

*D.C. private-equity giant Carlyle Group's eighth annual report -- but the first one made available to the public -- is out today. It offers some details about where the money came from and where the money goes.

By Terri Rupar  |  June 23, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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