Political Pork Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee

Poverty-Unemployment Up Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee 2013 in Spite of Central Planning

by Lewis Loflin

Quoting News Channel 11 December 17, 2013:

ETSU professor of economics Steb Hipple wrote in his report on the third quarter for 2013 that unemployment rates were pushed to 7.5 percent in Kingsport and Bristol, and that Johnson City's unemployment rose to 7.8 percent...Between the third quarter of 2012 and the same quarter this year, the Tri-Cities lost more than 2,500 jobs, Hipple said...

That's the official rate - the real rate is more than double that. During that time taxpayers spent hundreds of millions on economic development and incentives to local business:

$12 million for a County Music Museum to relocate from the Bristol Mall to a renovated garage in downtown. A failure when I interviewed their employees a few years ago their business plan (and the eight mostly part time jobs created) consists sucking up more public dollars. They are millions in debt to the government.

They claim "This center will serve as a major tourist destination for the region, drawing at least 75,000 visitors per year resulting in a direct economic impact of $5,411,625, and sustaining 162 jobs." That is abstract babble from the people they paid to write the grant applications. The study I saw from them said 8 jobs.

I challenge them to present a list of those jobs and proof of those 75,000 visitors they claim to get. Why is the $6 million nearby (within sight) Bristol Train Station where they said the same thing still empty?

$5-$10 million in incentives for two call centers to jump the state to new locations from Bristol Virginia to Bristol Tennessee-Sullivan County.

Local grocery chain Food City announced in November that around 7800 of their mostly part time workforce of 13,000 will have their hours reduced below 30 hours a week to evade Obamacare. They were awarded $6 million in economic development grants to relocate their corporate offices within the nearby town of Abingdon. Read the full sick story at

A steel fabrication company jumped the county line from Washington County Virginia to Russell County. Rumored to have cost taxpayers a bundle all requests for information from Russell has been refused.

Both Bristol Virginia and Bristol Tennessee have committed almost $100 million to underwrite two massive shopping complexes within 5 miles of each other off I-81. Most of this will simply relocate and displace existing retailers and will shut down the Bristol Mall. A local car dealer is thinking about relocating there. There's a "lawsuit questioning Bristol's financial dealings with The Falls development at Exit 5."

City of Bristol, VA. has rewarded $120,000 plus a full year's benefits in a severance package to former city manager Dewey Cashwell. He resigned without explanation.

Then Bristol's BVU CEO Wes Rosenbalm abruptly resigned from his position with a $270,000 severance package and an ongoing criminal investigation into the finances at BVU. Nothing as of June 2014 has ever come of this..

A $213,000 federal grant went to a hobby strawberry farm in Bristol, Virginia.

The Bristol Herald Courier (Dec. 19, 2013) is reporting Bristol Virginia is giving a Roanoke developer $1.2 million in cash on a $19 million deal to build 70-room called Sessions Hotel near the corner of Commonwealth Ave. and State Street. Besides creating more low-end service jobs they will simply displace three or four existing motels on Commonwealth and Volunteer Parkway.

The Bristol Herald Courier (Dec. 9, 2013) is reporting that the Virginia Tobacco Commission, BVU, and government incorporated spent a staggering $119 million for broadband and fiber optic access to 13,400 customers in Southwest Virginia. That's a cost of $8900 per customer. That doesn't include the Tennessee side of Tri-Cities.

To date there has been no measurable increase in private sector economic development or jobs related to this massive expense.

All of this in a community that ranks at the bottom of nearly every social demographic in their respective states. The Food City example is far too typical for the region where the majority of it's workforce is part time and have no benefits. Yet Bristol is very expensive to live in relative to that type low-wage service-retail-retirement economy.

Move-in retirees, those in the government loop, and business owners plow the waters on a luxury liner in a sea of working class poverty. They are the ruling class and everyone else doesn't exist other than to bring them comfort and supply low price services.

Obamacare was designed to address this problem has made it only worse - Food City isn't the only local business shafting their already low-wage workforce.

It's time to begin rethinking this problem - a problem the ruling class not only ignores, but often supports. The problem is as much cultural as economic.

See the interview with 21-year-old Matt Stevens that got his hours axed by his low-wage employer over Obamacare. Typical of most of our young people even with a college degree he's left scrambling looking for enough work to survive.

He had to move back home. This is such a common story as the tourists enjoy their silly country music (taxpayer subsidized by the way) and watch the races.

See Extended interview: Matt Stevens