Bristol Compressors More Corporate Welfare 2015?

by Lewis Loflin

Update August 1, 2018: Bristol Compressors will close in 60 days. The last 470 workers will lose their jobs.

Update more layoffs at Bristol Compressors. See Bristol Virginia Washington County loses 362 jobs May 2016.

Bristol Compressors has received $2.65 million in the past in public handouts for new jobs, but instead fired hundreds and never paid the money back. Company CEO Edward Gniewik in 2015 says to quote,

"We're going to build compressors. As the company grows, we will find a way to make compressors whether it's here in Bristol or someplace else. Were going to make compressors."

Company officials whined that they can't get skilled labor. The only problem is they won't advertise what skilled labor they need or what they pay or anything else. It's hard to hire workers when nobody knows you're actually hiring.

Update July 2016: Here we go again another 180 layoffs May-July 2016. See the following:

Their company policies are the real problem. The reason for a "available labor force is diminishing" is because of the bad labor market conditions compels many to relocate. The number of new jobs is also confused with politicians claiming "110 quality jobs." Well not really. Quoting the press,

"110 more full-time positions for its Southwest Virginia facility...50 seasonal workers (will go) full-time positions and hire 60 more by the end of April...That will bring the total number of full-time positions at the site to 738."

Well that was the Bristol Herald Courier April 15, 2015 - didn't happen. It was only 60 new jobs anyway if they even materialized. But by June 27, 2015 we have these headlines:

"Bristol Compressors CEO: Shortage of skilled workers hurting region - Company president says 30 workers needed now, up to 75 by fall."

Which is it 110 jobs? 60 jobs? 75 by this Fall and they only need 35 of them now? How many are they actually hiring? Bristol Compressors CEO Mr. Gniewek went before the Chamber of Commerce that has done nothing but promote more restaurants. He said the following and confirmed the very issues this website has documented for years:

"It appears that what is happening here is that the available labor force is diminishing rapidly in the region. It's not just Bristol, but the surrounding area as well. We reach out to about 40 miles for our workforce. Some of our people that work here drive upwards of an hour to get to work. I'm not just looking within the confines of Bristol for our workforce, but I'm reaching into the regional communities to try and find labor."


"Tuesday, we had to operate the plant with 35 fewer people than what we need. It makes it very difficult for us to get the productivity out that's required for us to fill our orders. When we look at our needs, it goes on beyond what we currently have and what we're going to add in the near future. We are growing and we need to fill positions."

Can't get enough temp workers? Perhaps true but when the orders are completed workers are cut back or let go. That is how business maintains high productivity by hiring and firing workers. Further in regards to our stupid retail wars:

"The money that Bristol Compressors brings into the region ($50 million) is not money that's being pushed around, it's money that's being brought in from our customers who are out of state and out of the country. It's fresh wealth creation coming into this community.

If we open a restaurant in Bristol, that's money that people were going to spend at one restaurant that shifted to another establishment. That's pushing money back and forth, that's not wealth creation."
Yes! Finally someone said it! His message:
"Strategically, you have to start focusing on what's important for this region If (the Chamber is) going to expend their efforts, they should be focused on growth and economic development and bringing real dollars into this region. Not worrying about the next shoe store that they are going to bring in."

But that is all the Chamber is interested in besides collecting government grant money. The article went how the Chamber just doesn't deal with manufacturing issues. He further vented his frustrations:

"...the company is looking for full-time, permanent workers. I don't need college engineers. I need practical people to work and help us build compressors - that's what we need. At this point, we'll hire unskilled labor and train them. When I came here two-and-a-half years ago, I never thought that we would be in this situation or have this problem. I always thought there would be a lot of available labor as a manufacturer. I never thought that we would run into this kind of roadblock. Now two-and-a-half years later, we have this issue and it hit us all at once."

So why didn't the Company train "general assemblers, machinists, and skilled trades people such as electricians" they knew they would need two-years-ago? They simply wanted to cut labor costs but now expect others to bail them out.

That's what you got $2 million for Mr. Gniewik. People stuck for years as seasonal and temp workers tend to quit and go else where. Many of our best leave the region for better opportunities - they are the workers Mr. Gniewik can't retain.

Letter to the Editor printed Bristol Herald Courier

Re: Bristol Compressors. After $2 million in corporate welfare the company may deliver a handful of the jobs we were promised instead of hundreds of layoffs. Mr. Gniewek needs a reality check.

News reports have made it clear, "we don't hire people with college". That's where all of your good workers are going. Manufacturing is becoming increasingly complex, scientific, and automated. He says, "I don't need college engineers" no you don't want to pay for one or integrate them with a GED workforce that's retiring. One needs the higher IQ skills combined with the practical.

Our hostile labor climate has driven out our best and brightest leaving a marginal un-trainable labor force many that can't pass a drug test assuming they even show up for work. As Mr. Gniewek made clear this is a region-wide problem.

The Center of Excellence that was supposed to be producing trained industrial workers so where are they? The only jobs created was at a nonprofit being used to bail out the failed small business incubator in Abington.

I fought for years to get the academic standards raised for industrial and technology students only to be told forget such "unrealistic" ideas.

Local business whines at its inability to prevent good workers going elsewhere - nobody would move/stay in a community where their education and skills are met with hostility while taking a 50% pay cut.

They don't need you Mr. Gniewek or the $9-$12 an hour that you actually pay. Studies have shown that years of stagnant wages, union busting, outsourcing and temp agencies have made many industrial jobs uncompetitive in attracting better educated and skilled workers.

That's your reality Mr. Gniewek.