Large retail pads where a Kmart and other stores were promised sit empty after a stagnant economy stole Kmart's dream several years ago. But today, less than a block away, Walmart's plans to establish a foothold in western Hesperia and help kick-start the city's retail sector are alive and quickly moving forward with or without the economy's help.


When completed by the fall of 2012, the 195,000-square-foot store will have Walmart's usual assortment of products, plus a complete grocery store.


"We will be a full grocery store as well as a merchandise store,"according to Aaron Rios, senior manager of public affairs and government relations.


A wide-selection of products along with Walmart's well-known low prices should make the Hesperia store irresistible to shoppers, and other retail establishments will soon follow.


"It will create retail synergy," he said. "After an anchor like Walmart comes in they all start gravitating to that area."


"They (Hesperia shoppers) can come to one location and do all their shopping," added Councilman Thurston "Smitty" Smith.


And that's especially good news for the city, according to Hesperia Mayor Mike Leonard.


"Any place like this we open in Hesperia is a plus for us because we get additional sales tax," Leonard. "And there won't be anymore money drain to Victorville."


For Councilman Bill Holland, who was elected last November, Tuesday morning's groundbreaking ceremony was especially significant.


"It's humbling for me," Holland said. "It's my first groundbreaking as a councilman. It will always be special for me. People have been talking about it for 10 years. Now it's happening on my watch."


But Holland credited his predecessors for helping make the project a reality.


"The councils before me deserve the lion's share of the credit," he said.


Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony, which featured local dignitaries, area political leaders and Hesperia Chamber of Commerce Ambassors, was the second in one day for Walmart. The groundbreaking for a nearly identical project was held two hours earlier in Victorville. Construction, which is scheduled to start soon, will be completed in around a year. Both stores are expected to open in the summer or fall of 2012, Rios said.


"This project and the Victorville project are on parallel tracks. We'll go from cement floor to open-for-business in six weeks."