Tennessee is a joke.
In Bristol Virginia we spend $11 million tax dollars to fix up a condemned garage into a country music museum to create eight jobs. Their funding plan? More tax dollars! Gotta love those Virginia Republicans!

Bristol Virginia-Tennessee News Opinion 2014

by Lewis Loflin

Tri-Cities, Bristol Virginia-Tennessee will not only have among the lowest growth in the nation, but the lowest in Tennessee and Virginia. The region already suffers a 20 percent plus real poverty-unemployment rate. Where do I begin?

See Growing Poverty and Job Losses in Tri-Cities VA-TN

Bristol Virginia Tri-Cities Crime 2014

Former Bristol Employer Gets $188 Million in Tennessee Corporate Welfare

The antics of Electrolux Corporation is an example of the rampant corruption of Republican Corporatism I've ever seen. They are literally paying companies to fire and downsize American workers with our tax dollars.

One critic put this deal in perspective when it closed its Canadian operation:

So Electrolux was able to get rid of 60 workers, cut the wages of the jobs they kept by more than $4 per hour, get a more central distribution location, and a free factory courtesy of state and local governments in Tennessee.

The state also agreed NOT to sue to get the money back if Electrolux closed or failed to deliver!

Read the whole sorry story: Obscene Electrolux-Tennessee Incentive Deal Puts State at Risk by Lewis Loflin

Happy Face Assault on our Individual Liberties

Liberalism's Double Standard on Bigotry and Intolerance

Born Again Jobs

One local blogger wrote the following about phony job creation:

These are what economists call "Born Again" jobs. Jobs that were here before, and that went away when the last Fed bubble burst, and now are "born again" when the Fed re-inflates the next economic bubble. You don't make any dent in long term unemployment numbers when the same jobs are repetitively "born again and again", born more times than the average evangelical. But notice how the taxpayer is assuming ownership of the place (see Heritage Glass, etc. below) now and is merely leasing it to the temporary evangelicals.

And by the way, why have the quarterly Steb Hipple reports on job creation been less prominent in the paper lately? Used to be big front page headlines telling us of the number of "born again" jobs masquerading as real jobs. That man was the high priest authority when it came to counting the number of not so real jobs in the area.

Here is the answer why.

Tri-Cities VA-TN slow job growth.

Steb Hipple on a Shrinking Tri-Cities Labor Force 2014

Trulia predicted that Tri-Cities region would have the slowest growth and rank at the bottom in both Virginia and Tennessee - they were overly optimistic. What we have is negative job growth from a shrinking jobs sector.

ETSU economist Steb Hipple is the last word in economics in Tri-Cities, but lately nobody in the press or government are saying much about him - they claim unemployment is down and all the corporate welfare has turned the economy around. Well, not really. To quote Dr. Hipple:

During the first quarter (2014), the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) continued to see job losses. Compared to the same period in 2013, regional job levels were lower by 0.7% to 221,514. Employment has now declined for the past eight quarters and increasing numbers of jobless workers are withdrawing from the regional labor force.

As a result, unemployment fell 16.5% to 16,072, and the labor force contracted by 1.9% to 237,586. The jobless rate for the metro area was 6.8%, compared to 7.9% a year earlier. Under these conditions, a falling unemployment rate is a sign of labor market weakness...

During the January to March period, employment was higher by 0.5% in Bristol, but fell 1.6% in Johnson City and 1.2% in Kingsport. Matching the regional pattern, large numbers of unemployed workers are exiting the labor market in each city.

This has lowered jobless levels by double digits, contracted the labor force, and reduced jobless rates. The percent of workers unemployed fell to 6.6% in Johnson City, 6.7% in Bristol, and 6.8% in Kingsport. As in the metro area, the lower jobless rates in each city are a result of weakness in the labor market.

One would think the millions in corporate welfare would yield some jobs. What we really have are a few rehires at lower pay.

Bristol Virginia Bond Rating Crashes

Back in April Moody's downgraded Bristol Virginia's rating from A1 to A3 over it's massive borrow and spend programs to pay for corporate welfare such as the troubled Falls Development. One person I spoke to says Bristol is spending every dime they are getting on debt repayments.

They were also handing out $2 million to a Roanoke developer for a downtown hotel called the Sessions.

In April they were $55 million in the whole and borrowed more I believe since then and are in a lawsuit over borrowing another $20 million for incentives in July. The City has a population of about 17,000 and is ranked as one of the poorest cities in Virginia. Ref. BHC April 26, 2014.

Prime Choice Foods Files for Bankruptcy in Bristol

In another blow to Bristol snack food maker Prime Choice Foods, once touted a "rural success story", has filed Chapter 11. The company makes mainly organic corn chip products under various labels.

This is another "born again" company that moved into a closed operation. Taking over the Terry's Potato Chip plant in Bristol Virginia. To quote public records,

In October 2006, Mount Rogers Planning District Commission in Southwest Virginia approved a $150,000 ultimate recipient loan to Prime Choice Foods from its Intermediary Relending Program revolving loan fund provided by Rural Development.

This $150,000 investment leveraged $1,850,000 in other funds obtained from the Virginia Governor's Opportunity Fund, Virginia Tobacco Indemnity Fund, City of Bristol, and First Bristol Bank.

The purpose of the loan was to acquire an existing commercial warehouse for storage and distribution of snack foods and to provide corporate office space for a growing company.

In other words resurrected with tax dollars the same old jobs. They are working with Heritage Equity Partner of Maryland to sell the firm or get capital, but the press report is strange:

"The company is in need of working capital to support growth and we are exploring many possible scenarios to solve this problem, including new money, either debt or equity, a joint-venture partner, or a going concern buyer."

If the company is doing so great and just needs capital for expansion why not go to a bank? I smell a corporate welfare check and the proclamation of 100 new jobs. They only employ about 35 but what's a few orders of magnitude when it comes to crony capitalism and big press releases?

Ref. BHC July 2, 2014.

Remote Area Medical Exposes Government Hypocrisy Again

The weekend of July 20, 2014 saw our annual spectacle of Remote Area Medical (RAM) in Wise Virginia. Over 2500 people attended the three-day event seeking mainly medical, dental, and vision services unavailable to the multitudes of impoverished residents.

The value of the free care given at RAM was valued at approximately $6.3 million. But also present as in previous years was our illustrious Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe. This hypocrite was present moaning and whining about Republicans not funding Medicaid expansion after helping Republicans pilfer $100 million for a retail development.

Read the full story. While we are at it let's look at the history of crony capitalism and waste in Wise County.

What 70 New Jobs at Columbus McKinnon?

More "born again" jobs if could only find them.

May 27, 2014 Washington County Virginia: Another local company has failed to meet it's obligations to create 70 new jobs after getting a $563,000 corporate welfare package. The pork came from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, the Governor's corporate pork fund, and County taxpayers.

Columbus McKinnon a maker of forklifts in Damascus sent General Manager Lance Lacombe before the Board of Supervisors. I already knew they wouldn't enforce the agreement and would give an extension, which they later did. Local government never enforces these agreements and this is a repeating pattern.

But what Mr. Lacombe said raises more troubling questions. To quote Bristol Herald Courier:

He said the company currently employs about 235 people - up from 174 at the time of the agreement. (2009) He acknowledged that the 70 jobs were not consistent each year, as the number of people employed by the company fluctuates to meet the demands of the market.

About 235 people? Doesn't he even know? In other words there's no evidence of 70 new jobs and he seems somewhat confused. I was told the company once employed about 300 people (a bunch of their employees were in my college class) so even if we got the 70 which he seems to admit is not the case, those are rehires at best. My attempts to verify these claims have come to nothing.

This kind of information is barred under the Virginia Freedom and Information Act and the deals were conducted under closed session with no records being kept.

I'll emphasize I believe Columbus McKinnon has done nothing improper - the problem is political corruption and the misuse and waste of our tax dollars. I challenge those involved to produce a list of those 70 jobs - or whatever.

Another 100 Jobs Lost in Bristol Virginia

May 8, 2014 Bristol, Virginia: Virginia Intermont College fired its last 100 employees and shuts the doors. They received over $2 million in Tobacco Commission funding under the guise of creating a tourism degree program to boost tourism. (Yeah, right.) There is no evidence they even tried to do this and refused my requests for three years to provide proof. The program was never listed in their catalog.

This was about an attempt to bailout a poorly run institution whose former president left without notice and there was a problem with embezzlement charges a few years ago. It was a political favor.

Two million in economic development dollars equals -100 jobs. They also owed $13,000 in back property taxes. See $2 Million TOC Funding Virginia Intermont College

The defunct college watched as enrollment dropped from over 1100 in 2004 to 378 in 2013.

More problems have arisen for Virginia Intermont College. This failed liberal arts college has been hit with stiff liens by the IRS. The liens total a whopping $830,000.

This was after the Virginia Tobacco Commission illegally gave the institution almost $2 million in economic development grants in an attempted bailout. Under the Virginia Constitution it's illegal to give state tax dollars to charities and nonprofits - a law that is routinely ignored by corrupt Virginia politicians. Ref. BHC July 26, 2014.

Bristol Metals fires 290 Workers

Speaking of continuing losses in manufacturing Bristol Tennessee takes another blow in addition to the huge drops in attendance at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bristol Metals a company that makes stainless steel pipe fired 37 workers in 2012 and in June fired the last of its 290 member workforce.

City leaders as usual were caught off guard. Quoting the Bristol Herald Courier in 2012:

The company is in the middle of a five-year in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the city's Industrial Development Board. Under the agreement, the company can make capital investments without paying additional property taxes. The board will own any new buildings and equipment until the terms of the agreement are fulfilled.

Really? Now what Bristol Tennessee? They dodged their taxes and what are you going to do? Another corporate welfare deal and all we get is 290 layoffs from a company that claims it's the largest stainless steel pipe manufacturer in the country.

Phony Jobs and Corporate Welfare for Heritage Glass

April 29, 2014: WCYB TV is reporting "A closed glass plant is about to reopen, bringing more than 200 new jobs to Kingsport." Well not really. The press really needs to read the press release and put it in context.

The fact is something called Heritage Glass is supposed to invest $16 million to reopen a defunct Kingsport glass plant. They are simply patching up the old equipment and promises to hire 120 in ten weeks with some vague promise of 237 in some distant future.

They will make the same old "Patterned glass is used for shower doors, solar panels, dividers and privacy applications such as bathrooms, doors, sidelights, conference rooms and churches."

I believe this was the AGC Flat Glass North America plant that fired about 800 workers and closed November 2012.

These are not new jobs but simply rehires (at certainly lower pay) at the same old jobs showered I'll bet with generous Tennessee corporate welfare. They are supposed to start production July 2014. Stop claiming "new jobs" until they actually exist - and are not rehires in the same place doing the same thing.

Update - I was right: Another orgy of corporate welfare. The Kingsport Times-News reveals the details - Heritage Glass did not invest anywhere near $15.8 million.

The scam went like this: Kingsport gave Kingsport Economic Development Board (KEDB) $2.6 million to buy "34-acre site, excluding the AGC corporate office facility and credit union operation." It will then be leased back over 15 years - meaning as long as KEDB owns it no property taxes.

If the deal folds they get stuck with the property. To further quote,

Heritage Glass is purchasing the glass business line from AGC for $4.7 million ... "(Heritage Glass) investors have $2 million of their own money in this." In addition "they are expected to receive $700,000" in state corporate welfare.

Now we find out most of the jobs will be low-paying: "about half the new jobs are expected to be in the $14 to $18 per hour range, with the other half in the $10 per hour range." One can bet it will be mostly the $10 an hour range. Heritage is supposed to clean up the site.

That's little more than what a call center pays and taxpayers are on the hook for most of this project. In fact those voting the money never read the business plan:

(Kingsport) City aldermen also discussed what might happen if Heritage Glass officials fail.

"We have reason to believe in the worst world that if we had to sell this property, there are buyers," Phillips pointed out.

Alderman John Clark asked: "Who has seen the business plan to see the company will do well?"

Phillips responded: "The bank has seen the business plan, and some KEDB members have seen the plan."

(you idiots voted for it and didn't read the plan???)

Alderman Tom Parham added: "This is not different from other incentives we have put together in the past... The appraisal value of (the glass plant facilities) is about $8 million... It's really a low risk opportunity that potentially could provide some high-end jobs."

You are risking millions of tax dollars on "could" and it sounds like some believe it will fail? There's no market for this plant without another mountain of public cash. This is like the $60 million in incentives given to Eastman Chemical about 10 years ago promising 2000 new jobs by now - instead we got 300 layoffs. Yup sounds like a good deal for Heritage Glass investors.

Opportunities are available through workforce training


Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014

This is a follow up to my letter of last month, when I talked about the need to offer job training in our area, something we should be doing with tax dollars rather than wasting it on unsuccessful projects and grants that duplicate services.

The Virginia Highlands Community College workforce training program is offering a welding class for only $289! For the $8,000 the Washington County Board of Supervisors wasted on the "Center of Excellence," 27 students could have taken a welding class.

By the way, I have been an instructor in electricity/electronics and have been involved in training displaced workers.

To get more information on the welding class, visit the college website: The program is titled MIG and Flux Arc Welding, and is offered in partnership with the Washington County Career and Technical Education Center. The non-credit class runs through May 1 on Wednesdays and Thursday.

March 2014 Bristol Herald Courier:

I'm praising Gov. McAuliffe's administration for investigating the Tobacco Commission. (BHC 2/26) It's about time. I strongly condemn the Washington County BOS for approving $8000 for the so-called "Center of Excellence." They've now wasted $363,000 that will produce nothing.

An almost identical program a few years ago wasted $2 million also produced nothing. Its former director stated, "business here doesn't care about your education, skills, or experience..." One HR manager stated "we don't hire people with college."

Tobacco Commission's 9-28-2011 minutes noted of 200 deals in the previous five years over 100 were in default. They don't even have a direct way to measure if any jobs were created!

Their 2011 Blue Ribbon audit revealed 89 percent of their grants have never been accounted for. Millions wasted on a wholesale plant nursery in Gretna VA to make bio-fuels and a horse camp in Scott County are typical examples.

Abingdon's Small Business incubator is a failure. Their $8 an hour call center jumped the state line for Tennessee corporate welfare.

Don't waste another $1 million duplicating existing services. We can already train welders, etc. if we can end the resistance to properly educating vocational workers. Stop pretending blue-collar workers don't need English, science, or math.

As a vocational instructor myself I know students with a proper educational background are easy to train or retrain. Technology training is more than putting the black wire under the brass-colored screw. Studies show industrial workers need a far higher level of education. Our social apartheid culture must deal with that.

I'm encouraging my fellow citizens to contact their supervisors to halt this useless project. Deal with our dysfunctional political and education system. No more corporate welfare for businesses that "don't hire people with college" and "don't care."

Lewis Loflin

Notes: the small business incubator was paid for by ARC and Tobacco grants and often serves as discount office space for non-profit s seeking more government grants.

Virginia Wastes $900,000 to Underwrite Movie

The dismal future of the working poor in this community is tied directly to a job structure hostile to working people. The shocking loss of retail sales in Bristol is proof that many have little disposable income.

Bristol Virginia Shelve Raising Taxes to Pay for Corporate Welfare

Update: the tax increases were shelved (July 29) with politicians pledging to find another way to reduce debt and get more taxes - without business paying the bill.

Bristol Virginia politicians are delaying steep tax increases after objections from local business. The city is in deep financial trouble over funding of the Falls multimillion dollar retail development.

The city was locked in a lawsuit from local residents objecting to the city issuing another $20 million in revenue bonds to pay for business incentives. The cost of the massive retail development to taxpayers can easily top $100 million.

The new city taxes on admissions and cigarettes has met stiff resistance from the Chamber of Commerce and local nonprofits. The Chamber of Commerce is all for corporate welfare but its members don't want paying for it to impact their profits. Our nonprofit industry which is mainly dependent on government money anyway certainly doesn't want any of their money to be endangered.

This includes our so-called Birthplace of Country Music Museum. This $11 million mostly taxpayer-funded project is projected to create eight jobs. Its entire business plan is already questionable in my mind and an admissions tax could make the situation even worse.

According to an employee I spoke at the Weldon Cooper Center in Wise Virginia most of their income sounds like it's going to be taxpayers anyway. According to them the study was rushed and last-minute in order to receive Tobacco Grants. Now they're claiming a new study somehow contradicts the old study and is supposed to be producing tens of thousands of new jobs. Yes and I have a nice bridge for sale in London.

Another objection is from a local cigarette store George and Sid's on Commonwealth Avenue who claims its business will be damaged by two dollar a carton cigarette tax. Customers from Bristol Tennessee come to the Virginia location to save money on their cigarettes.

The other problem is all of these taxpayer underwritten concerts and public events which are already pretty expensive a lot of people here can't afford them would be forced to start paying for themselves.

One concert for example that made the promoter a half-million dollars in profits cost taxpayers $8000 in losses for police, trash pickup, etc. Politicians claim that the city came out better because we collected all this great sales tax, but if that's true why are we always raising taxes?

Our local electric utility is using $150,000 in TVA funding slated for actual economic development to underwrite another concert. This is typical for the political corruption that is Bristol Virginia-Tennessee. We socialize cost while privatizing profits. Ref. BHC July 24, 2014.

Downtown Bristol has indeed come a long way and really is a nice place to visit. The concern of this website is the poor job situation and underlying social problems that are often ignored.

See Illegal Immigration-Crime

We all live here together

Update July 30 2014: Washington County BOS has cleared the way for gas drilling with no restrictions. My hope for political reform though has fallen flat.

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014 Bristol Herald Courier.

I'm praising the Washington County Board of Supervisors for getting us out of the King Medical School fiasco. This is another multi-million dollar backroom deal we have no business in. I'm hopeful with removal of Boss Reeter and election of new members we can end two decades of "good old boy" government.

In addition, I'm voicing my support for gas drilling and asking our supervisors to support it. I've had gas drilling, pipelines and a compressor station near my home for two decades with no problems. The gas company workers do a superb job.

Those trying to stop drilling don't even live in my community. Most are from the Abingdon-Damascus-Glade Spring area.

Those opposing drilling are the same collection of recent transplants and outside-funded political activists who were behind efforts to stop Love's Truck Stop. They are driven by ideology and are typical of the social apartheid system the working poor suffer from.

They care nothing about the poverty and joblessness we suffer here, being fixated on greenism at the expense of poor people they are economically and socially isolated from. One even commented on the poor "being pushed out" but seemed to not care about it.

This is understandable as we market this silly hillbilly-hick music culture, which isn't representative of most of the people living here. They're fed this silly Appalachian culture garbage peddled in college by the clueless academics.

Those living off government jobs and transfer payments or bringing money in have no idea just how bad earning a living in the region really is. The working poor matter little to these mostly transplant liberals that are hostile to local culture anyway.

We all live here together, so let's demand open government and open public dialog on these issues.

Lewis Loflin Bristol, Va.

J.C. Penny Slams the Doors in Bristol

Another retailer pulls out while we waste $100 million underwriting shopping malls.

J.C. Penney plans to close its Bristol Mall store as part of a nationwide effort to shutter "under-performing" stores, the company ... plans to close 33 stores in 20 states, including its 86,000-square-foot local store...This marks the second major Bristol Mall anchor store to announce plans to leave. Last May, officials with Belk announced plans to replace its mall locations in 2015 with a new store in The Pinnacle retail center being developed near Interstate 81's Exit 74 in Bristol, Tenn.

Mayor Odum said losing J.C. Penney and the 50 jobs it represents makes it "vitally important" to complete (the $65 million taxpayer funded) The Falls retail center currently being developed near Interstate 81's Exit 5.

The closings are expected to idle a total of about 2,000 employees and generate a savings of about $65 million.

January 15, 2014 Ref.

To quote the late Bill Deel, a retired English teacher from Clintwood, Virginia, "We're becoming more and more Third World here...The best and the brightest leave."

Healthcare Meltdown

Business in the region is also on the government gravy train planning on maximizing profits at public expense - nowhere is this more true than healthcare. Now it seems to have backfired.

Sprint Dumps Bristol Virginia for Bristol Tennessee

Here is another example of one low-wage community trying to outbid the neighboring low-wage community at taxpayer expense for low-paying jobs. Sprint has turned down a lucrative corporate welfare package from Bristol, Virginia and will jump the State line to Sullivan County. Read more...

Here in Bristol January is once again dominated by record cold. Entire states are being declared disaster areas as arctic temperatures break record after record. But there are some of us that are saying we told you so. It's about religion and social agendas and not science.

Mass Immigration Killing the Working Poor Here Too

Immigration reform will cause even more misery for the working poor as an additional 22 million more guest workers over the next decade will further displace native born low-wage workers and already have in East Tennessee and Tri-Cities. Low-wage black workers have been driven out of the labor force across the nation by immigration and the same thing is happening to poor whites in our region as employers hunt for more cheap-exploitable labor.

In fact this has been recommended to business as a way to lower labor costs in the tourist-retirement related industries this region is promoting. Simply put they want to bring in even cheaper labor to displace the working poor that already dominates our private sector labor market. The working poor are ignored and marginalized already and so the system of social apartheid will continue to flourish.

Religion versus Science