Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Bush Industries Closing St. Paul VA Furniture Plant

March 07, 2003 By Amy Gatley

ST. PAUL - A major manufacturer in Wise County has announced it will shut its doors, leaving 140 people jobless.

Bush Industries announced Thursday in a prepared release that it is closing its St. Paul furniture manufacturing facility, idling 118 hourly employees and 22 salaried employees.

Bush blamed the closing on the need to reduce capacity and the lingering downtown in the economy and the furniture industry.

"The decision to close St. Paul was a very difficult one but one that was very necessary to rightsize manufacturing capacities in light of the ongoing slow demand for furniture," said Ernest C. Artista, vice president of corporate communications at Bush.

"We, like most American manufacturers, hoped to see a rebound in the economy in late 2002, but it just never materialized forcing our decision. The St. Paul team is a good one, and we have enjoyed doing business in Southwest Virginia," he added.

The 285,000-square-foot facility, which manufactures ready-to-assemble furniture for such retailers as Office Deport, was purchased by Bush in April 1998. The work currently being done at St. Paul will be moved to Bush facilities in western New York and Pennsylvania.

The release did not say when employees were notified of the closure or how long the facility will remain open. Calls to the Bush plant on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned. Contacted Wednesday, St. Paul Industrial Development Chairman Bob Harrison said he was aware that the Bush plant was closing but had not been told officially.

"I believe there are 120 employees, and they are spread out all over the town and in Wise and Russell counties. Anytime you lose 120 jobs it has an impact on the economy of the local area, so we are concerned about those employees, and we are also concerned about the lost revenue to the area," Harrison said.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher announced that he had contacted the U.S. Department of Labor to assist the displaced workers, hoping to expedite the submission of the company's petition for workers' assistance.

The federal funding Boucher is working to secure would provide job outreach services, career counseling, job search and job development assistance, classroom training, on-the-job training, meal allowances, and transportation assistance.

"Federal funding will be of critical importance to the workers who have been affected by the closure at the Bush facility. These workers deserve our help. I am hopeful that the U.S. Department of Labor will quickly approve my request and provide the job retraining assistance which will lessen the burden of this closure," Boucher said.

Boucher explained that the requested funding would be furnished by the U.S. Department of Labor under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which provides assistance for workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign imports or plant relocations outside the United States.

In addition to job retraining benefits, the program also provides up to 52 weeks of additional unemployment insurance benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks available to all workers who lose jobs.

The additional assistance enables unemployed workers to continue searching for work or to continue participation in training programs.

"The TRA program is a comprehensive job retraining initiative which was created to assist workers who have been laid off due to increased global market competition, and I am hopeful that we will succeed in making the benefits available to the employees of Bush Industries," said Boucher.

Copyright 2002 Kingsport Times-News.

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 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.