U.S.D.A. Coming to Bristol Good or Bad?
by Lewis Loflin
Lobbying efforts by local government to locate two U.S.D.A. offices to Bristol have kicked into high gear. They hope to lure the agency to move 2 offices and 600 Federal jobs to Bristol to the empty Alpha building.
Is this a good deal for Bristol residents? We don't know. The Alpha Building deal has already cost taxpayers $20-$30 million.
This deal started in Washington County when now defunct Alpha Coal sold its Abingdon headquarters. The building sold to Washington County for new office space. That deal cost residents around $16 million.
This was part of an incentive package worked out with Bristol Virginia. Alpha sold a good building to build another in Bristol - 10 miles away. The promised 150 new jobs for Bristol never materialized. The building completed in 2011 and has been empty since 2016. The building is 130,000 sq. ft. and sits on 32 acres.
Bristol and the State of Virginia paid out $10-$15 million in grants, utility kickbacks, free land, etc.
The public lost $30 million on both deals.
Alpha never hired a single person, declared bankruptcy. The building sold to last report to a Kuwaiti firm. The building is still empty while those in on the original deal walked away with millions.
Bristol and Washington County are among around 140 locations vying for the jobs.
Officials claim it is one the "finest" places anywhere. So why haven't they sold this boondoggle to a legitimate private sector company?
Because like every economic development scam in Southwest Virginia it's about government money. In this community we give economic development grants to restaurants and retail stores.
We have plenty of low-paying retail and service jobs as is. Do we need more? Those high-paying jobs will go to transplants, not local people.
What we need are better paying blue-collar jobs. We need access to affordable dental and health care.
Is locating 600 jobs paying $100,000 to $150,000 into a community where the typical job pays under $20,000 a good idea?
A lot of new housing and infrastructure will have to built.
This would hyper-inflate housing costs and local taxes and utility rates.
Retirees moving in who are far more wealthy than local people. Some have already pushed lower income people out.
These new jobs will likely to go to transplants. Local people get stuck with inflation and a higher cost of living.
Already poverty-ridden Bristol will be like many Blue state urban areas. Lots of poor people with a few rich running everything.
Lots of new low-pay service jobs that will likely go to illegal aliens and immigrants to keep pay low.
In my view it will be a mixed bag. I will see no benefit at all while my property taxes will likely explode.
There will be housing shortages with heavy demand from 600 transplants. This is unaffordable to those making under $20,000 a year. This drives more onto government dependency.
The question everyone avoids is bridging the income gap. They peddle this endless infatuation with race and gender to avoid that subject. I do hope they locate here, but for once address these issues. We don't want to become Northern Virginia.
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