Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Boucher Misuses $2.5 Million for Country Music Museum

Update 2019: the final cost was around $12 million. It hires few people. There is little proof of any benefit to the average citizen.

What Bristol Virginia got during this time is as follows: City of Bristol, Virginia population 17,835 in 2010, 16,482 in 2018, a drop in population of 7.1%. Bristol Virginia has a new higher poverty rate of 21.3%, a 16.3% disability rate, and a 13.8% uninsured rate. The $12 million was never even considered to address this very real problem.

But Mr. Boucher is doing great. He is now a lobbyist for Communist China since being defeated for re-election in 2010. Good going Rick.

By the way tourism is down 16% in 2019 during a supposed economic boom.

Also note the The Bristol Trainstation is still empty and useless in 2019.

On the morning of January 15, 2010, Congressman Rick Boucher announced the misuse (in my opinion) of another $2.5 million in federal funding for the "Birhtplace of Country Music Cultural Heritage Center." The full text of the announcement can be found below. You can also see video of the announcement on Congressman Boucher's You Tube channel at

All of this seems to be under an umbrella organization called The Appalachian Cultural Music Association. They claim to be "dedicated to the preservation and promotion of traditional Appalachian Mountain music." Going through the various websites related to this "museum" it's apparent this is an economic failure.

Even they admit it's underwritten by a local restaurant, the Bristol Mall (now closed), and a printing company. But they have already in addition to this $2.5 million, the pork-ridden ARC is giving another federal grant of $50,000 towards "planning" this dumb project, and another $500,000 has been requested.

The Virginia Tobacco Commission, the City of Bristol, Virginia, the City of Bristol, Tennessee, have already supplied most of the other $3 million on the project. The total cost to taxpayers will be about $10 million.

What the hell does moving a show at a local mall to a defunct garage in the middle of a city (with little or no parking) of over 50,000 have to do with rural development? As for paying off that loan, fat chance in my opinion or there's little proof they can even pay their power bill once there. That too will be likely be footed by taxpayers.

We just spent $6 million tax dollars on the Trainstation that has produced nothing a few blocks from this dumpy garage. That has produced nothing in the way of jobs or anything else that was promised.

Update May 5, 2011: Birthplace Of Country Music Alliance Needs $3.8 Million For Museum

Still nothing to show after all these years and millions of tax dollars. According to WCYB they are seeking an additional $3.8 million to get this stalled project off the ground and have launched another fundraising drive. They are "asking 1,927 individuals to become partners and make a $520 donation" and to quote WCYB, "We have $7 million committed on a $10.8 million project," said BCMA president-elect John Rainero.

"That money is strictly capital money which cannot be tapped until we have the entire funding available to use for construction of the building. So we are looking for $3.8 million. This will close the gap."

The claim that Bristol is the "Birth Place of Country Music" is a myth. Other than a few recordings 1927 there has never been any "industry" to speak of. That was and always has been Nashville.

From Congressman Boucher:

It is my pleasure to return to Bristol this morning to announce a major allocation of federal funding which will significantly benefit both the efforts to enhance downtown Bristol and our region's tourism economy.

At my urging, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Rural Development Agency is today providing a low-interest federal loan of $2.5 million to the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance for the construction of its Cultural Heritage Center in downtown Bristol. This funding will enhance the effort to build a high quality facility showcasing our region's musical heritage in downtown Bristol.

When constructed, the Cultural Heritage Center has the potential to become a major tourist destination in itself. It is estimated that the Smithsonian quality museum and performing arts venue will bring tens of thousands of visitors to Bristol each year, supporting existing downtown businesses and creating new opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

The new Cultural Heritage Center will not only benefit Bristol's economy but will also benefit our region's tourism economy by adding a major asset to The Crooked Road, the region's tremendously successful effort to showcase its musical heritage with a driving trail extending from Rocky Mount to Clintwood.

The music which was born in the hills of our region is at the root of popular music that has spread across our nation and been exported to the world, and Bristol truly holds a momentous place in our nation's music history. Recognizing its importance, the U.S. Congress formally declared Bristol the Birthplace of Country Music in 1998 when it approved a resolution I authored in a bi-partisan partnership with former Congressman Bill Jenkins for Tennessee's First District.

It was here that in July 1927, Ralph Peer came to record musicians from the southern Appalachian region for commercial distribution, an event often described as "the big bang of country music." Over the course of ten days, referred to as "the Bristol Sessions," Peer recorded the original Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and many others who eventually found a commercial audience beyond this region for the first time.

The new Cultural Heritage Center will commemorate the musical heritage of our region and help us build on its musical legacy. The Center will offer state-of-the-art exhibits, educational programs and performances in the former Goodpasture Motors Building on Cumberland Street in downtown Bristol. The new Center will include gallery and exhibit space featuring state-of-the-art exhibits using the most advanced multi-media technologies. Additionally, a small 100 seat theater will be constructed to complement downtown Bristol's existing performing venues. Two classrooms will be constructed to serve school children in the region.

A temporary exhibit gallery 2000 square feet in size will also be included. The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and the temporary gallery will enable the Cultural Heritage Center to host temporary exhibits on loan from the Smithsonian.

The total cost for the construction of the new Cultural Heritage Center will be more than $10 million. In addition to the $2.5 million in federal funding I am announcing today, the Appalachian Regional Commission has provided a federal grant of $50,000 toward the planning of the center. Additionally, another $500,000 has been requested from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the project, and I am urging final federal approval of these funds. The Virginia Tobacco Commission, the City of Bristol, Virginia, the City of Bristol, Tennessee, and several private individuals, corporations and foundations have contributed more than $3 million toward the project.

Today, a vigorous fundraising campaign begins to raise the final $3.7 million necessary to begin construction. I will continue working with the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance and the City of Bristol to assist in securing these funds. Once construction begins on the Cultural Heritage Center, it is estimated that the work will take approximately two years including both the building renovations and the exhibit installation.

With the federal funding I am announcing today, we are well on our way to constructing the new Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Cultural Heritage Center. This project represents the work of many individuals and organizations over several years, and I am pleased that we are taking this significant step in constructing the new Center. I would like to thank a number of individuals I have worked with over the years whose efforts have been critical in today's announcement.

I want to thank Ed Hill, current President of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, as well as past presidents Fred McClellan and Leton Harding for their dedicated efforts to build the Cultural Heritage Center. The other members of the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Board of Directors deserve our appreciation as well. Bill Hartley, the Alliance's Executive Director, deserves our thanks today for his outstanding work in aid of the Alliance.

I also want to thank Travis Jackson with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency for his excellent assistance in securing these federal funds. I want to thank Jim Rector, Mayor, and the Bristol, Virginia City Council for their continued support of this project and longstanding efforts for the betterment of Bristol. Fred Testa, Mayor of Bristol, Tennessee, and that City's Council deserve our thanks as well. Finally, I would like to thank my project manager Derek Lyall for his persistent and persuasive efforts in aid of this project.

The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance's Cultural Heritage Center will become a great asset to our region. I am pleased that the Rural Development Agency has made this significant federal investment in the future of our region. The new Cultural Heritage Center will draw thousands of visitors to our region and boost our tourism economy.

Income Plunges Again by 15 Percent in Tri-Cities

The Johnson City metro area, median household income dropped by more than 15 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to the American Community Survey, which measured social, economic and housing data from 2009. The median household income for 2009 was $34,495, down from $40,643 in 2008. The last time median income hovered near $34,000 in Johnson City was 2004, ACS reports showed.

While the economy may have stopped its free fall, it has still plummeted so far the federal government has reset its definition of the poverty line for the first time in five decades. The 2009 poverty level was set at $21,954 for a family of four, down from $22,025 in 2008.

More than 21 percent of the Johnson City area lived below the poverty line in 2009, compared to 16.9 percent in 2008. Nationally, the poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people in 2009, the highest since 1994, the report showed. The percentage of Johnson City area residents receiving food stamps and SNAP benefits climbed to 16.7 percent in 2009, up from 10.7 percent in 2008.

Washington County's (Tennessee) food stamp office saw a 21 percent increase in the number of households using its services from December 2008 to the same month in 2009, according to numbers from the Tennessee Department of Human Services. (Johnson City Press October 6, 2010 extract.)

The worse part is Johnson City is better off than much of the rest of the region. They also just had another drive by shooting wounding a 19-year-old. Likely another drug deal gone sour. Yet while this is going on local leaders plan to spend $800 to help the Coffee and Tea Haven in Johnson City build an internet site. This is sure to drive millions of customers downtown as they flock Sara Delcher's coffee shop.

As an "excited" Sara says, "The nice thing about being able to go online is it will give me a broader audience."

Suzanne Kuehn, the Johnson City Development Authority executive director, is also upbeat about the little coffee shop: "We really need to expand their (business in general) customer base and the profitability of doing business in downtown Johnson City." So it's really not so profitable after all.

A similar scam went on in Virginia where the Virginia Tobacco Commission through a $200,000 grant paid $8000 per small business to help them put up websites. Over half the websites went to other non-profits getting government grants, one went to an individual selling metal cars out of a post office box, while another went a candy shop in Williamsburg and another to a used car lot as I recall. Guess they were excited too. The number of jobs created, the three people that got the grant and those jobs went away when the grant ran out.

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report East Tennessee State University - Third Quarter 2014

Employment levels still falling since 2009.

Existing labor market trends dominated the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) in the third quarter. Compared to the same period in 2013, regional employment was lower by 1.7% to 218,244, while unemployment fell 10.3% to 16,664 as discouraged job seekers continued to leave the regional labor force. The summer unemployment rate for the metro area was 7.1% (compared to 7.7% a year earlier). With the labor force shrinking by 2.4%, the falling jobless rate is a sign of labor market weakness.

Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in six, and unchanged in none (compared to six, four, and two in the second quarter). Job growth was led by construction, professional & business services, other services, and education & health services. Smaller employment gains were reported by transport & utilities, and leisure & hospitality. Major job losses occurred in retail trade, government, and manufacturing. Small employment declines were reported by wholesale trade, information services, and financial services. Overall, the private sector in the metro area saw modest job growth.

During the July to September period, employment was lower in all three cities - falling 2.2% in Kingsport, 2.0% in Johnson City, and 1.2% in Bristol. Matching the regional pattern, large numbers of unemployed workers are exiting the labor market in each city. This has lowered the jobless counts, contracted the labor force, and reduced the unemployment rates. The percent of workers unemployed was 7.0% in Kingsport, 7.1% in Johnson City, and 7.1% in Bristol. As in the metro area, the lower rates in each city reflect labor market weakness.


Back to History, Causes of Poverty in Southwest Virginia

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."

Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file)

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