Southwest Virginia Job loses 2010-2020.
Southwest Virginia Job loses 2010-2020.

Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee Exposed

by Lewis Loflin

This page being updated September 2022. My Homepage is also being updated.

Congratulations to our local politicians for spending 100s of millions in public money to create jobs! Southwest Virginia has a population of 313,499, a loss of about 29,000 since 2010. Perhaps over 40,000 since 2000.

My only focus here is the working class. Bypassed and ignored by local leaders, economic planning never considers their plight.

In 2002 to quote, "The Tri-Cities region lost nearly 24,000 jobs from September last year to July this year." That is 11 months.

To quote the Bristol Herald Courier (June 11, 2008),

A third of Bristol's residents need affordable housing, said Mayor Jim Rector, and "public affordable housing is the way to go. In private housing programs, the only goal is profit, while public programs do what is best for residents."

Social apartheid drives political corruption. To quote Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies:

"The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia - more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined."

To quote Rex Todd of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based The Landmark Group, "Rather than have the working-class people sequestered on one side of town and the rich on the other side of town, the idea is to integrate people..."

To quote former Washington County supervisor Paul Price, "The rich get richer, and the poor never catch up."

I've documented for two decades the over-reliance of this region on government programs.

Government grants and economic development funds totaling hundreds of millions are just gone.

Millions wasted on empty energy research centers, green energy scams, fish farms, strawberry farms, funds stolen to pay for a library, vacant train stations.

Using public funds to lobby for more public funds! Lobbying for Amtrak to come to Bristol.

$12 million for a country music museum and $2 million to fix a private barn to promote country music.

They set up dozens of non-profits for politicians to channel public grants to.

The above image has proven me correct; I wish I were wrong. With growing inflation, costly climate nonsense, and the Federal Reserve threatening to destroy the labor market to control inflation, our community is in danger.

A study released by King University in 2016 notes the following:

Over the past several decades there has been a pronounced shift in the composition of personal income in the United States and in the regional economy – Tri­Cities metro area and the Southwest Virginia coalfield region. A half­century ago, earned income accounted for 75-80 percent of total personal income. By 2014, the share of total personal income attributable to earned income had fallen to 57 percent in the Tri­Cities and 50 percent in Southwest Virginia.

Economic Impact of Government Transfer Payments (PDF)

The problem is worse in the summer of 2022.

I was asked to submit ideas and not just complaints. Fair enough. See Needed Political Reforms Ending Poverty Southwest Virginia

I wrote it in 2010 and it is still relevant today.

Colf at Bristol Virginia Clear Creek Country Club.

To quote H.L. Mencken:

"The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable"

I also have two alternate websites. See Reason Versus Liberalism and Putting Reason Back in Science

Bristol Casino Parking lot view.

Temporary Hard Rock Bristol Casino Now Open

Location: 500 Gate City Highway, Bristol, VA 24201-2372. Phone: (276) 696-3660, (888) 519-6683

The Hard Rock Casino has opened in the old Bristol, Virginia Mall, left abandoned by the Pinnacle in Bristol, Tennessee.

To quote on source, "The 30,000-square-foot casino has 870 slot machines, 21 table games and a Hard Rock Sportsbook."

The temporary Casino opened on July 8, 2022. Around August 20, I visited the Casino and spoke to two employees. According to them, they already had 500 employees. They are supposed to hire many more.

The permanent Casino and hotel complex should open in 2024.

These jobs are good news for the Bristol workforce. The anti-labor culture of local businesses does not poison Hard Rock.

Local dollars do not subsidize them to any degree. These jobs create competition for workers keeping regional pay scales in the service industry higher.

A sizeable outside employer makes it difficult for the Chamber of Commerce to work with local businesses to suppress pay scales. In the past, they employed this tactic.

Even before Hard Rock opened, service industry pay was up.

Minimum wage in Virginia rose to $11 an hour helped. Workers fed up with labor abuse and low pay left the labor force or found better jobs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Fed Chairman Powell has announced he will destroy jobs and hurt workers to control inflation.

Inflation today results from supply chain disruptions and, the war on affordable energy, the banning of fossil fuels.

FedEx Facility under construction Bonham Road Bristol Virginia.

FedEx Distribution Center Coming to Bristol, Virginia

More good news for Bristol workers as new outside employers are hopefully free of local politics.

September 12, 2022, Bristol, Virginia: FedEx is building a 251,000-square-foot distribution center. Located on Bonham Road near I-81, Exit 7 creates easy access to a major interstate.

I work across the road from the construction site. Workers are leveling a mountain for the facility.

"Operation" is slated for 2023. It is unknown how many workers will be employed there. It is next door to the local UPS Distribution center.

To quote a local press report, "FedEx will also contract for package pickup and delivery services with service provider businesses that hire locally for drivers, helpers, managers, and other positions."

Also nearby is the 72,000-square-foot Amazon Distribution Center. That opened in September 2021.

The number of workers I guess at 200-400.

The press claimed Terry McAuliffe and local politicians claimed 400 new jobs. They lied, gave away millions.

To this day the press has never corrected this story. See 400 New Jobs is Just Zero Jobs

How could they spend millions on jobs and economic development and lose almost 29,000 residents?

How can spending millions on transportation and other economic development funds for an abandoned train station be rational? No trains run today; 15 years later, the building is still empty.

See Bristol Trainstation Still Empty 2022.

How do horse trails and horse camps facilitate transportation? Spending transportation funds on this is either irrational or simply fraudulent.

Washington County, Virginia, says this is about economic development, which isn't about jobs for those that live here:

"Economic development does not necessarily mean growth, although the growth of both population and revenue may be a result. Economic development means strengthening the community's economic base or the part of the local economy that brings in money from outside the county."

In reality, the money goes to the "haves" that control where it goes and who benefits.

Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center

Repeat of 2012 Energy Fiasco

To quote one source:

"Average crude oil prices in 2012 were at historically high levels for the second year in a row. Brent crude oil averaged $111.67 per barrel, slightly above the 2011 average of $111.26. West Texas Intermediate oil averaged $94.05 per barrel in 2012, down slightly from $94.88 in 2011."

Oil prices hit $147.02 on July 11, 2008. Thus began an orgy of pork-barrel waste.

High energy prices combined with the 2008-9 housing bubble opened the door to government money.

Virginia politics drowned in a corrupt system of public-private partnerships.

Billions flowed for "green" energy research, biofuels, and university grants. Private business interests working in secret with economic developers pocketed millions.

Every effort failed. Because of government wars on fossil fuels, we are back to 2012.

Politicians and their business associates will pour billions down a green rathole.

In Southwest Virginia, we face a bleak future. The working poor that dominates the region will face higher energy and food prices.

Not just higher gas prices, but electricity costs as well. The Northern Virginia Climate Thumper cult demands more costly "renewable" energy sources.

I warned about this in 2010, and was proven right.

(Above) Taxpayer waste $8 million Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center another empty building producing nothing.

Climate Thumpers are a religious cult.

Nowhere is the religious garbage more proven than in Al Gore's book "Earth in the Balance." I own the book and have read it myself.

While published circa 1992, this cult integrates outright communism and racist social justice in 2022.

I challenge the reader to buy and read the book. See my webpage Dissecting Al Gore's Book Earth in the Balance.

American Labor Participation collapse.
American Labor Participation Collapse.

Spending over $140 million on clean energy "research" centers results in empty buildings. Great for consultants, contractors, and their friends.

What is social apartheid? What does that have to do with Bristol, Virginia-Tennessee? Or Appalachia in general?

Some define this as "Social apartheid is de facto segregation based on class or economic status, in which an underclass exists separated from the rest of the population."

They discussed race as a diversion, where the population is 90% plus white. For that reason, the working class in the Bristol region faces hostility from Democrats for race plus class and Republicans' rabid pro-business anti-worker attitudes, plus class warfare.

Millions flow in from government grants, etc. Still, the general public is barred from the input process and locked out of government meetings. When disbursing public money, doors are locked.

The Bristol Herald-Courier, August 21, 2021, notes the following report from our Chamber of Commerce, paid for by an $81,000 Government grant:

BRISTOL, VA. -- The Bristol Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday released a report detailing the Twin Cities' biggest challenges and opportunities for economic growth... The report cited an aging population, the "brain drain" effect of talented workers "moving away to seek better employment opportunities" and low wages as some of the area's top barriers to economic development...

Darn, they dare mention low wages, something they have fought to maintain for years!

No kidding, the very things I documented here for over 20 years without a government grant to waste.

Note that Bristol is cut in two by the Virginia-Tennessee state line. Bristol, Tennessee, resides in Sullivan County, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia, and Washington County, Virginia.

Often referred to as Tri-Cities centered around Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol. It usually includes Scott and Washington Counties, Virginia.

Southwest Virginia Population decline 2021.
Southwest Virginia loses another 8% of its population from 2010-2020.

To quote Zak Jackson at Virginia Tech:

"Regional wages are not competitive with statewide and national wages. Turnover is high for low-wage jobs. SWVA residents disproportionately live in poverty; many workers cannot afford a basic standard of living."

Adjusted minimum wage 1970-2022.

I refer to the adjusted minimum wage as $1.60 in 1970, adjusted for inflation in 2022.

The minimum wage in Virginia increased to $11 in January 2022. It is supposed to rise to $12 in January 2023.

Republicans are trying to stop the increase. Even $12 an hour September 2022 is still below inflation. Still worth less than $1.60 in 1970. It will be worth even less in 2023.

In general many jobs here run $2-$3 above minimum wage.

Myself in the news:


Tri-Cities labor market 2007-2016.

Update September 3, 2019. Based on data from Dr. Steb Hipple, an economist at East Tennessee State University (retired), his data goes to the 3rd Quarter of 2016. The level of job losses in Tri-Cities is staggering.

The Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area comprises Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, and surrounding counties.

The Bristol Virginia-Tennessee, Kingsport, and Johnson City Urbanized Area Labor Market lost thousands of jobs shrinking the labor force that shrank unemployment rates. The above table shows a decline in the labor force by almost 18,000.

Since 1990, the labor force may have dropped by 50,000. It may have recovered some since 2016 except for the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chamber of Commerce that owns local politicians fights hard to keep pay low, unions, and worker protection out.

Politicians fight anything that benefits workers but can't pull out the public checkbook fast enough to fund corporate welfare and waste.

Poverty and low pay become a business asset and source of pride. It is related to statements such as this from local politicians:

"high unemployment can be an advantage because it increases the number of available workers...Our labor force is a huge advantage since the county unemployment rate is twice the state average, and regionally, the unemployment rates range from 3.5 percent to 15 percent..."

Or this statement from a man whose company received $10-$20 million in public subsidies to create 120 jobs, then filed for bankruptcy and left:

"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night."

Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009, in Abingdon, VA.

The Alpha Fiasco

Alpha Natural Resources filed bankruptcy after a multi-million dollar public incentives deal.

A sale involved selling their office building in Abingdon to Washington County. They paid millions over the appraised value—a deal done behind closed doors, like everything else.

They agreed to build a new headquarters building in Bristol, Virginia.

Then Alpha received $10-$20 million worth of land, kickbacks from the local utility, and State grants. They promised 120 new jobs and would retain even more.

Politicians claimed hundreds of new jobs. Companies not relocating or moving within the same community is job creation.

The "hundreds" of new jobs were a myth. Those "new" jobs never existed. Alpha filed for bankruptcy. They sold the building for $28 million in 2015. That was about the worth of the public money they received.

The developer pocketed the money, and Alpha moved their office across the state line. Now years later, their building is still empty.

Their corporate headquarters is now 340 M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620.

Abingdon, Virginia, is the County seat for Washington County.

As a Washington County resident, I protested against the Alpha Building purchase.

They spent $2 million over appraised value. Plus over $1 million in renovation costs, plus millions in interest.

We already owned more than sufficient county office space.

One BOS member claimed this was part of the overall Alpha incentive deal.

I also warned those jobs would never materialize. That level of public funding in a failing industry (coal) was foolish.

I was proven right.

Yes we have broadband and spent millions.

Creating real jobs or raising the standard of living for workers, the priority is the opposite.

In fact, a so-called "futurist" came to Tri-Cities at the behest of business leaders to sell the idea. He gave a speech in Kingsport. Ed Barlow of "Creating the Future"

Quoting March 4, 2004, Kingsport Times-News:

"A significant component of your economic future in Sullivan County is recruiting Hispanics, making sure they get highly educated and integrated into the community. ... They can fill all of the various job categories you have. The future economic vitality model is based on the back of a well-educated, ethnically diverse work force..."

Comment: what in the heck do illiterate, unskilled Hispanics have to do with "well-educated" working minimum wage jobs? They imported thousands of illegal alien Hispanics into nearby Morristown and Hamblan County, Tennessee, with double-digit poverty rates. More here...

Exide Fires Bristol Workers - Received $34 Million in Stimulus Funds

In 2009 Exide announced the firing of 567 workers at its Bristol battery plant. That was 70 percent of its workforce.

Opened in 1994, Exide's Bristol plant is a manufacturing and distribution center for lead-acid batteries used in the automotive, marine and specialty industries.

They had 817 employees at the time. They did some rehires that were proclaimed "new jobs."


Ralph Stanley Museum.

Typical is the almost $2 million Ralph Stanley Museum that failed, and was taken over by the Town of Clintwood.

My sister lives there and there is no evidence this project brought jobs, etc. to Clintwood.

It is still there today. It is closed but supposed to open this spring in 2022.

Their website is

Why didn't Ralph pay for his own house?

Note Dickenson County has lost another 10% or more of its population since this opened. This museum is simply a gimmick in my view to funnel government grants.

See Looking back at the waste of Virginia Tobacco Funds.

I wrote the following and stand by it today. In 2022 these efforts have produced little, if anything.

Printed Kingsport Times-News January 10, 2005

Re: Virginia Tobacco Funds (December 6) the Times-News has missed the mark. These funds that should have gone for education, health care and economic development have become a ready source of fraud and waste for local Southwest Virginia governments.

This has produced nothing in the way of real jobs or helped the common people.

Tourism doesn't create good jobs, if at all. My relatives in Wise, Dickenson, and Russell Counties know of nothing any of these museums have brought in.

Carter's Fold near my home, has been given over $500,000 in government grants and hasn't produced a single job.

Bristol Virginia Utilities has received about $5 million in taxpayer funds (about $2.2 million in tobacco funds) touting fiber optics as job creation.

In one case they admitted running lines to areas they knew would never produce anything, then kept half the grant ($350,000) for expenses.

All they did was overbuild existing fiber optic infrastructure and have not connected a single customer that didn't get services before. After running up a whopping $50 million in external debt, they have failed to create a single job or bring in a single new business two years later.

Now Bristol, Tennessee is prepared to commit the same stupidity, while Bristol, Virginia has the highest electric rate in Tri-Cities.

Another $225,000 went to a seafood restaurant in Bristol. ($175,000 was EDA grants; $50,000 from Bristol Virginia Utilities.)

Another Bristol company received $1 million ($500,000 Tobacco Funds) to create 350 "new jobs," but instead we got 600 lay-offs.

The company kept the money. Washington County gave away $40,000 for a non-profit retirement community study that produced nothing.

As for Joy Manufacturing in Duffield, explain why they closed their facilities in Washington County, Virginia, industrial parks at the same time. The net result was a loss of over 100 jobs and millions in losses to taxpayers.

It's time to stop the waste and use tobacco grants for what they were intended for.

Lewis Loflin
Bristol, VA

Sprint Back-Stabs Bristol Virginia

"We didn't see it coming" says confused Bristol, Virginia leaders.

Here is another example of one low-wage community trying to outbid the neighboring low-wage community at taxpayer expense for low-paying jobs.

Sprint has turned down a lucrative corporate welfare package from Bristol, Virginia, and will jump the state line to Sullivan County.

See Sprint Moves to Sullivan County.

Crony Capitalism Comes to Wise County, Virginia

Lieutenant Governor Bolling along with local economic development hacks are having a pork party in Wise County.

Republicans scream about government waste with President Obama and his failed stimulus plan.

They call it waste, but do the very same thing.

In this case, three private sector startups got almost $9 million in corporate welfare, largely repeating earlier failed efforts at the same thing.

Nothing is known to have come of this deal.


We must ban government funding for private business ventures. Restore real free enterprise free of government money.

American Labor Participation Collapse.
American Labor Participation Collapse.

For a larger view of above click American Labor Participation Collapse

This was before the China Covid virus.

Below is more proof and the last I'll write on this subject. Morgan Griffith is my congressman VA 9th. Phil Roe represents East Tennessee 1st and is retiring. They are worthless.

Taxpayer waste $8 million Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center another empty building producing nothing. See Green Energy Boondoggle in Bristol Virginia and Biofuel Scams Wastes Millions in Virginia.

Update December 2019: One of the worst child abuse cases in Sullivan County is in the news again. See Baptist Preacher-Wife Sentenced to 179 Years

Also see 2007 Christian-Newsom Race Murders Rock Knoxville.

Update July 2017: I warned about Nulife Glass and predicted it was a scam. In June they fired the few people they hired and left Bristol with between 20-30 million pounds of CRT glass - glass loaded with lead. Press reports claim Bristol is trying to sue the company but likely will get stuck with disposal. They sold a $1.3 million building for less than $200,000 and half of that was payed for by grants.

Kelli O'Laughlin of Chicago.

Another victim of a black criminal on parole. Yes - white lives matter too!

Female victims of black violence.

The press has created a hysterical circus when three white men were wrongly accused of raping a black prostitute. Yet virtually nothing on the brutal Knoxville carjacking, rape, and murder of two white kids. Even my local paper the Bristol Herald Courier wouldn't cover the killings 90 miles away while running reports on nonsense across the country. They were angry when I called them on it. They started carrying the reports.

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