Political Pork Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee

CityMac Another Taxpayer Fiasco in Bristol VA

by Lewis Loflin

CityMac is an Apple Computer store that opened with "great fanfare" in June 2013. It shut down with a whimper in June 2013 and with it went a $570,000 taxpayer handout.

They were paid to locate in Bristol instead of Johnson City and the money is long gone. This is just the latest example of local communities trying to outbid each other for retail development which either fails or simply pays a business to jump the state line for corporate welfare.

Rarely do we ever get new or good jobs and in this case another 15 workers lost their jobs.

Why in the world would anyone even open an Apple Computer store in Bristol which has no customer base? I'm heavily involved in tech in this community and I don't know anyone that owns an Apple Computer here.

To quote the press release, their reasoning was "that it would attract shoppers from a wide area to the downtown..." This operation also included the CityMug Coffee Shop.

This simply makes no sense other than it opened only at taxpayer expense. The younger people that would use these products simply have no money in this low-wage service-retirement community and seniors who have most of the money wouldn't buy such products. I hate to say it, but I predicted this a year ago when it opened.

There has been an increasing problem in hyping downtown Bristol and a lot of taxpayer money is being wasted. That included $6 million in state-local grants to refurbish the Old Bristol Train Station which still sits idled and empty today.

They are spending another $11 million in taxpayer money on a country music museum which failed at the Bristol Mall, has no business plan that makes any sense at least to me, and yet they still get the money. It will fail too in that it will never be self-supporting.

When I contacted the Weldon-Cooper Center in Wise Virginia I was told they rushed the "study" through simply to allow the Birthplace of Country Music organization to get state grants. They claimed to have done an updated study.

The owner of CityMac Jim Neu says he is "disappointed" attempts by the Bristol Herald Courier to get a statement from Mr. Neu and the store manager are "unsuccessful."

Neu was supposed to spend $300,000 to fix the old building and the City of Bristol now gets the old building. So they pay someone $570,000 for perhaps $300,000 in improvements to a useless building that assistant city manager Andrew Trivette praises as "a tremendous job of protecting the interests of the City."

Sure Andy, tell us all about it.