Technology Remaking the World

Political Pork Tri-Cities Virginia-Tennessee

Layoffs More Corporate Welfare at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport

by Lewis Loflin

Also see Sorry History of Eastman Chemical

A few years ago my boss at a local community college had exiting news to tell me. "They're going to be hiring 2000 new workers at Eastman Chemical over the next 10 years." I was skeptical to say the least and my contacts at Eastman were saying more layoffs. Sullivan County and Kingsport had also handed out about $60 million in tax breaks on similar unfulfilled promises around 2001. I was proven right, in 2009 Eastman fired an additional 300 workers most of them in Kingsport. See Fun and Games at Eastman Chemical.

The Kingsport Times-News now announces Eastman is investing $1.6 billion, adding 300 jobs in Kingsport through Project Inspire May 29, 2013. What the heck is Project Inspire and how are they adding 300 new jobs when they just fired them in 2009? Let's take a closer look.

According to the Times-News they will invest $1.6 billion and rehire the 300 Eastman fired in 2009. But now we find out what is really going on:

(Eastman CEO) Rogers made the announcement with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who noted the state will provide funding to support a corporate campus expansion, road infrastructure improvements, and a grant to meet advanced manufacturing training needs for the company through the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) located in downtown Kingsport.

In other words the Tennessee taxpayers will give them over $25 million hoping Eastman Chemical will rehire those 300 laid off workers over the next seven years. What happened to those 2000 new jobs over ten years we were promised around 2007? The idiot Tennessee Gov. Haslam says,

"This is a really big deal for the state. ... We know we're going to be married (to Eastman) for a very, very long time." Sounds more like prostitution than married. A giddy Eastman CEO Rogers says he will get a "pretty nice office building" out of the deal and called corrupt Tennessee political Johns "friends of Eastman."

The other political whores included Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker were on the stage, as were Reps. Phil Roe of Northeast Tennessee's First Congressional District and Morgan Griffith of Southwest Virginia's Fightin' Ninth Congressional District.

What the hell is my congressman doing being involved in this? Says Griffith, "When other companies are in retreat, you all (at Eastman) are advancing." Really Morgan? Let me understand this. With this they get outright $85 million in corporate welfare and instead of the 2000 jobs promised they might rehire the last 300 they laid-off in 2009 over the next seven years?

In other words at the same time these slimy Republicans are demanding balanced budgets and cutting government they work behind the scenes to promote a corporatist' state dominated by crony capitalism. To quote CEO Rogers,

"When you have a collaborative relationship with your government - local, state and federal - so you can have that public/private partnership, this is when you win the competition. That's what you have here in Tennessee. ... We are going to be pushing $10 billion in (annual) revenue. ... We need to be spending this money."

It's called corporatism and it's not private enterprise. They have already picked out a design for their new taxpayer funded offices and to quote,

Haslam disclosed the state's investment in the project includes a $15 million "Fast Track" grant measured by job creation, plus a $10 million RCAM investment.

What about those recent layoffs Governor? Gov. Haslam says, "We never felt like Eastman was holding a gun to our head. They are not that kind of partner." Oh, so they didn't expand in China like they threatened to a few years ago before they fired those 300 workers? Why is Mr. Haslam making such a statement? Could it be the hint of corporate blackmail that cost state-local governments $81 billion in 2012 alone?

Gov. Haslam Steals from Children to Fund Corporate Welfare?

No doubt part of that state pork for Eastman is from children. The Associated Press reported April 3, 2013 Gov. Haslam added an amendment to the appropriations bill for a $45 million increase in "the amount of cash grants available to companies looking to invest in Tennessee." The article didn't name the source of this corporate welfare slush fund, now we do according to AP and June 21, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. - Volunteer State officials are notifying unemployment benefit recipients that they will soon lose a weekly allowance. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says Governor Bill Haslam has signed a new law that takes away a weekly $15/child allowance...According to state projections, ending the allowance will save the state $40 million a year.

Wonder where they will get the other $5 million?