Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Bristol Virginia Tri-Cities a Great Place to Retire

by Lewis Loflin
"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

For years I've exposed dysfunctional government and high levels of poverty. Now I'll balance that with positive aspects of a community I've lived in over 30 years. I won't pull any punches or engage in political correctness. The positives I'll be expanding on:

Low levels of crime despite a drug addiction problem among the lower class. Low levels of "diversity" and illegal aliens both directly proportional to high violent crime rates. According to Virginia State Police data blacks/Hispanics account for 75% of the violent crime in the state. White population in general 90% white.

Low cost of living, good infrastructure, good roads, high speed fiber optic.

Mostly good healthcare, but doctor shortages due to high use of Medicaid, Medicare, and uninsured according to health officials I talked to - 75-80% of the population. We have one of the best Veterans Hospitals in the nation in Johnson City.

Low income levels are offset by a high home ownership rates (over 50%) and most other homes not under water. Housing prices are low relative to national averages. On the bad side too much public housing and its crime and social problems concentrated in Bristol Virginia. In 2012 Bristol Virginia had a crime rate higher than Virginia Beach and Charlottesville. This improved in 2015. Ref. 2012 & 2015 State Police Crime Statistics.

In 1997 I launched this website to protest the appalling job and labor climate in Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee. Just in Southwest Virginia alone hundreds of millions in government grants from the Federal Appalachian Regional Commission to state institutions such as LENOWISCO, VCEDA, and the Tobacco Commission grants have been wasted.

See Three Decades of Job Losses in Southwest Virginia

Note that minimum wage in 1970 was $1.60 adjusted for inflation is $10.46 in 2018. That is what I call adjusted minimum wage. Assuming one even gets 40 per week that's for 52 weeks that equals $21,756. Per capita income in Bristol Virginia 2018 is $21,589. It is similar to this across the whole region.

Third world? Some have called us the China of America minus jobs.

Just a few of hundreds of plant closings see Smyth County the China of America loses jobs.

Tri-Cities labor market 2007-2016.

Update September 3, 2019. Based on data from Dr. Steb Hipple economist at East Tennessee State University (retired), his data goes to the 3rd. quarter of 2016. The level of job losses is Tri-Cities is staggering, worse than what even I thought.

(The Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area is composed of the Kingsport/Bristol MSA and the Johnson City MSA.).

The Bristol TN-VA, Kingsport, and Johnson City Urbanized Area Labor Market lost thousands of jobs shrinking the labor force that shrank the unemployment rates. The above table shows a decline of labor force by almost 18,000. But it gets worse.

Includes: Johnson City, TN, Carter County, Unicoi County, Washington County.
All workers BLS:
2016 78,140 workers, Median hourly wage $14.47, Annual $40,140
2018 77,020 workers, Median hourly wage $15.38, Annual $42,740
Labor force fell 1120 jobs in 2 years.

Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA MSA includes: Bristol city, VA, Hawkins County, TN, Scott County, VA, Sullivan County, TN, Washington County, VA.

All workers BLS:
2016: 118,470, Median hourly wage $15.27, Annual $41,050
2018: 116,150, Median hourly wage $16.50, Annual $43,480
Labor force fell 2,320 in 2 years.

That's not the worst of it still. For Tri-Cities the total labor force is 193,170. The labor force shrank by 3,440 jobs in 2 years - during a so-called boom. In 2009 the labor force was 247,965, minus 193,170 equals a staggering loss of 54,795 less people are working in 2019 than in 2009!.

I can't believe this myself. Anyone working here knows it is bad. That could be explained by high poverty and disability rates, and large numbers of retirees leaving the labor force. I don't know because a lot of data is hidden from the public. But makes sense when we look at the national labor force declines.

To quote Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file):

"The region has been replacing traditional (better paying) manufacturing jobs with (low paying subsidized) call center jobs, which provide limited advancement and work opportunities. Call centers represent the factory floor of the Knowledge Economy; they are an important part of a diversified economic development strategy, but the region must be careful not to rely too heavily on them, as the work is easily moved to other regions and/or other countries."

See No Private Sector Job Creation 1999-2009

The Sullivan County Tennessee Chamber of Commerce brought in a speaker that suggested bringing in thousands of Hispanic "immigrants" to help reduce labor cost for local business.

Quoting futurist Ed Barlow before the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce:

"Seniors create low-wage service jobs. They tend to withdraw from working, and they generally don't create new wealth. A retirement community strategy has long-term negative economic consequences unless there is a diverse (cheap labor non-white) economic base of other employees around it...A significant component of your economic future in Sullivan County is recruiting Hispanics, making sure they get highly educated (for what reason if stoop labor) and integrated into the community."

The 2011 Blue Ribbon Audit of the Virginia Tobacco Commission revealed 89 percent of their grants have never been accounted for. None of the recommended reforms have been implemented and nothing has changed in 2018. Their conclusion:

Grants Have Provided Benefits But Revitalization Remains Elusive;
TICR Has Made Grants With Limited Potential for Revitalization;
Well-Defined Revitalization Strategy Needed;
More Effective Governance Model Should Be Considered;
Most Awards Not Paired With Relevant Metrics.

And that remains true today. But it isn't just Southwest Virginia.

$74.5 million in losses to upper East Tennessee Hospitals.

Ballad Health to Downgrade Bristol, Kingsport Hospitals

What is the problem with hospital closings? Low-wage jobs and high rates of government dependence.

Sullivan County Tennessee is "standing" against the decision to downgrade the trauma center designations for Bristol Regional and Holston Valley Medical Centers to level 3. This will leave only Johnson City as the sole regional level 1 trauma center. In addition Kingsport will lose a pediatric trauma center.

The Sullivan County Commission has passed a resolution against the changes. Local officials claim this will cost lives. Ballad Health has a near monopoly in Tri-Cities. Ref. BHC 11-16-2018.

What wasn't clear is why this was happening. Then the shocker came: millions in losses threaten to shut down local hospitals in East Tennessee. Southwest Virginia hospitals are not much better off. Lee County hospital has closed while efforts are ongoing to reopen it.

In 2009 I attended a town hall in Abingdon for former congress critter Rick Boucher. Mr. Boucher is now a lobbyist for Communist China. He oversaw the waste of millions of federal dollars across the region.

I managed to interview the CEOs of the above hospital chains before they became Ballad. The controversy over free healthcare for illegal aliens was raging then with Obamacare.

See Town Halls and Other Controversy 2009. Not a thing has changed in 10 years and is getting worse. Drug addicts overfill local jails.

Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee are at the center of the opioid crisis. The real reason is never given in news reports. To quote the Washington Post 7/16/2019:

The states that received the highest concentrations of pills per person per year were: West Virginia with 66.5, Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7. West Virginia also had the highest opioid death rate from 2006 through 2012.

Rural areas with the greatest number of pills shipped per person per year were: Norton, Va., with 306; Martinsville, Va., with 242; Mingo County, W.Va., with 203; and Perry County, Ky., with 175.

The pill demographics in Southwest Virginia mirror those of Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The two worse-off communities are in Virginia with Norton (Wise County) and Martinsville.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the Southwest Virginia non-metropolitan area includes Bland County, Buchanan County, Carroll County, Dickenson County, Galax city, Grayson County, Henry County, Lee County, Martinsville city, Norton city, Patrick County, Russell County, Smyth County, Tazewell County, Wise County, and Wythe County.

This designation is absurd. Lee County borders Kentucky while Martinsville nearly borders North Carolina south of Roanoke. I'll explain why this is a problem further down.

Before I get to the culture of corruption and mass poverty in Southwest Virginia, let's explore the healthcare meltdown in Tennessee. The cause is simple - a hostile, anti-worker political climate and large scale poverty by design. Third-world wage scales are a right according to local business, even if we have to import the third-world.

Trulia map national growth.

No Recovery Under Obama-Trump

In 2009 Trulia released the above map predicting growth across the nation. As shown above Tri-Cities Bristol Virginia-Tennessee would have zero income growth from 2010-2020. They were right on the mark.

Experts hail the massive growth of the Pinnacle Development along I-81 in Bristol Tennessee as proof of a recovery. That is a lie.

Typical is the recent report (2019) that Best Buy stores in Kingsport and Bristol Virginia will close. They will now be one bigger store at the Pinnacle. This is hailed as new jobs by experts. That is a lie.

Relocating existing jobs within the community is not new jobs and is often less jobs overall. Oh, and they often get some kind of incentive package from local taxpayers for their trouble.

The Pinnacle Development simply emptied out the now vacant Bristol Virginia Mall. There is talk of locating a casino or canabis growing operation at the mall.

As one local businessman correctly pointed out with relying in retail as an economy, it simply shifts existing money around. It doesn't create new wealth. Is he right? Was Trulia right? Yes they were.

Since the dependence retail businesses began we have had near zero growth in Bristol. Note beforehand Bristol Tennessee is part of Sullivan County that also includes Kingsport, home of the bastard employer known as mighty Eastman Chemical. Holston Valley Medical Center that lost $41 million is also in Kingsport. I'll get to more on how they are connected.

Note Eastman Chemical follies are being updated as of Aug. 24, 2019! It is getting worse from the region's #1 bastard employer. Locally Eastman ounce employed 11,000 to 12,000 around 1998 and is less than 7,000 today. They have openly stated cutting labor costs as a top priority. This is the policy of every major employer in the region giving us why Ballad Health is trying to bail out bankrupt rural hospitals.

Note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics ( classifies the Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA MSA as including Bristol city, VA, Hawkins County, TN, Scott County, VA, Sullivan County, TN, Washington County, VA.

The U.S. Census reports the following data on population:

Sullivan County Tennessee population 2010 was 156,823, 157,768 in 2018. A gain 945 people or 0.6%.

Sullivan County is 95% white, a 15.7% poverty rate.

With a disability, under age 65 years, percent, 2013-2017 15.1%. That's ~23,822 disabled residents. That's almost the population of Bristol Tennessee.

Persons without insurance in Sullivan County is 10.8% or ~17,000 people.

Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 - $25,946.

Bristol Tennessee population 26,740 in 2010, 26,881 in 2018. A gain of 141 people or 0.5%.

Bristol Tennessee is 92% white, a 16.7% poverty rate.

With a disability, under age 65 years, percent, 2013-2017 13.9% or 3,736 people.

Persons without insurance in Bristol Tennessee is 16.1% or 4,328 people.

Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 - $24,067.

Bristol Virginia population 17,835 in 2010, 16,482 in 2018. A loss of 1,353 people or -7.1%.

Bristol Virginia is 88% white, 21.3% poverty rate. It also has 13 public housing projects at last count.

With a disability, under age 65 years, percent, 2013-2017 16.3% or ~2,687 people.

Persons without insurance in Bristol Virginia 13.8% or ~2,275 people.

Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 - $21,589.

Bristol Virginia borders Washington County Virginia. Under Virginia law they can't annex into Washington County, but Bristol Tennessee can and does with Sullivan County.

Washington County Virginia population 54,964 in 2010, 54,402 in 2018. A loss of 562 people or 1.0%. And this is the wealthiest community in Southwest Virginia.

Washington County Virginia is 98.7% white, a 13.9% poverty rate. That is ~7,562 people in poverty.

With a disability, under age 65 years, percent, 2013-2017 13.3% or ~7,235 people.

Persons without insurance in Washington County Virginia 10.8% or ~5,875 people.

Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2017 dollars), 2013-2017 - $25,640.

Washington County and Sullivan County have similar income levels. All 4 communities have computers at home (~82%) and plenty of broadband access. Millions were spent to install this utility since the mid 2000s on the promise of zillions of good, high-tech jobs. No proof of any kind this happened. Same across the region, broadband access never delivered new jobs or industry.

Taking just Bristol Virginia-Tennessee and adjacent counties the total net population had a loss of 829 people. What gains we had in Bristol Tennessee and Sullivan County likely came from people leaving Bristol Virginia.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ( classifies the Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA MSA as including Bristol city, VA, Hawkins County, TN, Scott County, VA, Sullivan County, TN, Washington County, VA.

Total employment 2018: 116,150, median hourly wage $16.20.

Total employment 2016: 118,470, median hourly wage $15.27.

Median pay rose 5.7% but employment fell by 2% or a loss of 2,320 jobs. That is not counting continuing jobs losses such as Bristol Compressors that wouldn't be in those figures until 2019.

Adjusted for inflation $15.27 in 2016 would be $15.90 in 2018.

Real wage growth for 2 years after losing 2,320 jobs was around 30 cents averaged across all occupations. That assumes government inflation figures are correct and they are not.

Healthcare related jobs 2016: 9,490 median hourly wage $23.13;

Healthcare related jobs 2018: 8,790 median hourly wage $24.09.

$23.13 in 2016 adjusted for inflation is $24.09 in 2018.

In healthcare we lost 700 jobs and had zero wage growth adjusted for inflation. Official government inflation rates are often under-stated.

Who is Poor and Why?

The answer who is rural and small town whites and urban blacks. They suffer poverty for the really the same reasons - the ruling class has no use for either other than a low-wage servant class. Illegal aliens work just fine for that. lists the ten poorest places in the Old Dominion for 2019:

Emporia, Petersburg, South Boston, Martinsville (city), Danville, Radford, Woodstock, Big Stone Gap (Wise County), Richlands (Tazewell County), Pulaski (Pulaski County).

Emporia Virginia is 68% non-white. 31% poverty rate. (Census 2019);
Petersburg Virginia is 83% non-white. 21.8% poverty rate (Census 2019);
South Boston Virginia is 50% white. 26.4% poverty rate (Census 2019);
Martinsville Virginia is 51% non-white. 22.5% poverty rate. (Census 2019);
Danville Virginia is 54% non-white. 24.4% poverty rate. (Census 2019);

The above are poor because of the large numbers of poor blacks. All except Petersburg are located near North Carolina far from wealthy Northern Virginia. Losses of manufacturing jobs have devastated these communities.

Radford Virginia is 83% white. Radford University has ~8400 students. 12% population gain, 29% poverty rate (Census 2019)

Woodstock Virginia is 94% white. 23.6% poverty rate. (Census 2019);
Big Stone Gap is 94% white (Wiki). 23.3% poverty rate. (Census 2019);
Richlands Virginia is 99% white (Wiki). 22.1% poverty rate. (Census 2019);
Pulaski Virginia is 90.5% white. 21.3% poverty rate. (Census)

Another factor for the latter 5 is about 12% on average lack health insurance. The fact is the disabled, welfare class, etc. usually do have health insurance through Medicare and Medicaid. Those unlikely to have insurance or poor insurance are likely working low-wage garbage jobs that dominate the region.

Bristol Virginia where I live has a 21.3% poverty rate. Bristol is the home of low-wage, part-time garbage jobs. But Bristol isn't alone.

Radford University in Radford straddles Pulaski and Montgomery Counties. As a state university it should bring in millions of dollars to the local community, instead we have among the worst poverty rates in the region.

Montgomery County Virginia is 86% white. It has a poverty rate of 23%, almost as high as Wise County (23.3%) in the depressed coal fields.

It is also the home of Blacksburg Virginia the home of Virginia Tech or Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. We have two large Virginia state universities within a few miles of each other.

According to the Census Blacksburg has an astounding 43.7% poverty rate! Virginia Tech enrollment is 34,400 students. That involves billions of dollars flowing through the institution. Even if the presence of students distort these poverty figures the high poverty rates in Montgomery County and surrounding areas can't be denied.

The wealth stays concentrated and doesn't flow to those working low-wage service jobs. Both colleges get millions in government grants under the guise of regional economic development. Where is the benefit to the general population? What actual jobs for the average person did this create - zero.

High poverty rates mean high numbers of uninsured, over use of Medicare and Medicaid. Doctors and hospitals don't want uninsured or most Medicaid patients. They lose massive amounts of money. The solution to get them out the door - pills.

People are put on pills because the medical system doesn't want to treat what they see as deadbeats. That is how we ended up with this massive addiction problem.

In 2011 Bristol-Tri-Cities was ranked number 5 in the 10 poorest cities in America by

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.

Quick navigation of my homepage:

While no surprise to me, the Community was rocked when on August 1st Bristol Compressors announced they will close. Their last 470 workers will be fired in the next 60 days. This comes after Bristol Compressors received between $5-$6 million in incentives, corporate welfare, and tax breaks.

News reports says the equipment and patents are being sold to a company in Taiwan. See Bristol Compressors Closes Cost Taxpayers Millions

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.

This is directly across the street from the empty Bristol Virginia Mall and on three sides are residential neighborhoods that objected to this nonsense.

The Bristol Herald Courier attempts to paint a false narrative of a gender pay gap in Abingdon, Virginia. This is in fact a skills and occupation pay gap. See There's No Gender Pay Gap in Abingdon, Virginia

Update: It has been just announced a company will create 40 jobs in Lebanon, Virginia (Russell County) to manufacture belts, etc. for the mining industry. They will locate in the empty Teleflex building. Due to Donald Trump reigning in the destructive EPA-Obama war on affordable energy and blue collar jobs coal production has surged 25% from January-July 2017. These are the kinds of jobs we really need not green energy nonsense. July 27, 2017.

Bristol Southwest Virginia Article Archive

See Bristol Herald Courier Now a Victim

Updated Sep. 2017

When it comes to arrogance, power, and lack of accountability, journalists are probably the only people on the planet who make lawyers look good. -- Steve Brill

Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative to quote on "mainstream journalists",

"The people who run American journalism, and who staff the newsrooms, think of themselves as sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and, culturally speaking, on the right side of history... (are) interested in every kind of diversity, except the kind that would challenge their own prejudices. Those include, bigotry against conservative religion, bigotry against rural folks and bigotry against working-class and poor white people."

Ref. Oct. 18, 2016 The Post-Trump Media by James Taranto WSJ

Quote: "A free press is bad news for corruption." Today with much of the press owned by radical oligarchs such as Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Carlos Slim, we have no free press.

Chomsky penned the idea of the "propaganda model" in 1988. The Podesta emails release proved just how the press has been compromised. To quote,

"The media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them. The representatives of these interests have important agendas and principles that they want to advance, and they are well positioned to shape and constrain media policy." -Chomsky

What is yellow journalism?

Yellow journalism, or the yellow press, is a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. By extension, the term yellow journalism is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion. - Wiki

Propaganda - noun.

1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

My definition: Political correctness - moralistic sounding censorship and suppression of free speech from cowards in the media and government used to control the conversation and exclude anyone that dares to question anything the elites and the press corporatist bosses perceive as a threat.

Political correctness as censorship and policy. Editor Jim Maxwell of the Bristol Herald Courier, who is also white, says, "Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper staff and management. In support of the First Amendment right of free speech...publisher reserves the right to reject (censor) any submission." Then who the heck is responsible for what goes in your newspaper? Total weasel words Mr. Maxwell.

In general "Red" states and Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee are very "Red" we have a high standard of living for the most even with lower earned income levels. To quote a study from the King Institute for Regional Economic Studies:

"The most troubling aspect of the Southwest Virginia economy is the decline in earned income in recent years. Real earned income fell 17 percent from 2011 to 2014. This is a direct result of declining production and employment in the coal mining sector. Due to the sharp drop in earned income, residents in Southwest Virginia received 72 cents in government transfer payments for every dollar of earned income in 2014. Comparable values for the Tri­Cities and the U.S. are 49 cents and 27 cents, respectively."

With all of this why did Trump get as much as 75% of the votes in this and other similar regions? See Red States Higher Standard of Living

See the full King Institute for Regional Economic Studies Report.

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