banner sullivan-county.com





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

Bristol Virginia Give $25,000 to Ice Cream Shop

Within days of raising property taxes, etc. to cover shortfalls due to massive incentive packages for a shopping mall development The City Counsel voted to give $25,000 to the "ice cream lady" to open an ice cream shop - I kid you not. Bristol politicians claim this will create millions of new jobs and help draw tourists to our $11 million taxpayer funded Afterbirth of Country Music Museum. (No the country music industry didn't start in Bristol - all the stars dumped the place and left.)

Not to be undone Bristol Virginia Utilities while mired in all types of controversy gave $10,000 of public and rate payers cash to the Museum to help underwrite some music program. Yet the City has problems funding its schools where as many as 70% of the children live in poverty. The City has at least 10 public housing projects.

Also note another eatery Quaker Steak and Lube is slated to get $280,000.

Some other stuff

Sen. Kaine of Va.

Headline: Local leaders air concerns to Sen. Kaine

Ref. BHC April 23, 2014.

The Bristol Herald Courier reported back in April 2014 that Sen. Kaine Democrat of Virginia met with local leaders to hear their crying, whining and complaining about the local labor force.

Business leaders and politicians and the local elite were invited yet the subject of meeting was absent as always - those representing the working poor and workers in general.

Among the concerns voiced by business leaders was workforce training and high levels of drug addiction. The Senator says he became involved in workforce training because employers cannot locate enough workers.

One local company Utility Trailer Manufacturing Company head plant manager Sam Cassel complained, "if we could get 100 employees tomorrow we would do it." Not so oddly this company has no listings at the Virginia Employment Commission which I track fairly often for my blog and don't remember ever seeing them listed.

If they were really hiring could they at least advertise that they're hiring, state qualifications, and pay scales?

Won't happen around here. The same gentleman who can't seem to find the phone number to the employment commission complained that he was concerned about "work ethics" and whined, "it can be a challenge to find dedicated employees."

But what about the question of corporate and business ethics? What about the region's low Third World wage scales? Constant hire-fire and the over use of temp agencies to cut wages? What about the ethics from employers?

Why is it when a business locates to Southwest Virginia or Tri-Cities do they feel it's their right to pay sometimes 60% less than anywhere else in the state? Why are they entitled to millions in handouts and freebies?

Why are those getting a few dollars in food stamps or rent assistance demonized while corporate welfare and crony capitalism is celebrated?

What about the abusive use of temp agencies? Just today October 16, 2014 a temp worker was reported killed in an accident at a Bristol candy company. I don't even want to speculate what led to this tragedy which the press is claiming has something to do with a medical condition.

Universal Fiber Systems CEO Mark Ammen said his company "is also in need of employees with technical training but is also looking for non-skilled workers."

But a check of the Virginia Employment Commission in Bristol then and now shows no listings for his company. In fact I don't believe I've ever seen a listing for this company.

In addition Mr. Ammen says, "these are great jobs you are talking about." Really at nine dollars an hour with a temp agency and rotating 12 hour shifts?

Yet while they are demanding that the state pay for a lot of unspecified workforce training these companies will make no commitment to hire them or show any willingness to contribute anything to the process.

Universal Fibers just like Utility Trailer operates crushing 12 hour rotating shifts. The level of stress and abuse that these companies often impose on their workers along with low pay scales is why they can't attract quality employees.

Most young people around here that are worth anything go on to college precisely to get away from companies such as these. This is compounded by the fact that these type of manufacturers refuse to hire college graduates anyway-that is company policy. As I was told these type of workers are considered a poor fit in the factory culture.

Let's return to the problem of Utility Trailer which is mainly the fabrication-welding of metal truck trailers. This involves a lot of welding which is easy to train those with low academic achievement to do - what the problem is passing a drug test and being able to read a blueprint.

The chronic problem that the social apartheid politicians absolutely refuse to address is many of these workers need to repeat two or three years of high school. We are plagued with far too many social promotions and high school dropouts. To try to train people to read a blueprint we must educate them enough in science math and reading to be trainable.

The education system here is pretty well determined that one is either going to college thus being forced to flee the area, or simply be semi-literate and get some watered-down vocational certificate. What business claims to need is a better educated and skilled workforce that they are simply not willing to pay for and are equally unwilling to improve working conditions.

Studies are now showing and is stated in the New York Times and other places that manufacturing wages have so stagnated and fallen over the last decade to where they are hardly competitive with other occupations. They are returning due to mainly falling and stagnant wage scales, lower energy costs, and billions in corporate welfare.

According to the New York Times state and local corporate welfare and incentives to business are costing taxpayers $80-$90 billion a year. Far too often those funds are use to fire, displace, and lower the wage scales of domestic workers with companies simply shifting production around within the United States.

To further quote the local press, "a real challenge for workforce training and the long-term health of the economy in Southwest Virginia is drug addiction. Huge numbers of people are addicted and unable to maintain stable employment."

And that is true because those with any kind of education or training flee the region's low-wage employers and much of what is left are those that are too lazy to get an education - they also tend to abuse drugs and alcohol.

In addition while local and state governments shower business with millions in corporate welfare and backdoor subsidies virtually nothing is spent to deal with drug addiction or treatment.

While this is a critical issue "we can't ignore" so they say where's the money for drug treatment?

Earlier in 2014 now Gov. Terry McAuliffe helped Bristol Virginia politicians pilfer $100 million from Virginia taxpayers to underwrite The Falls retail development in Bristol. But again not one public penny for drug treatment or to deal with the high school education deficiencies of adult workers.

In September 2014 the Virginia Tobacco Commission met in Bristol and approved $30 million in mostly corporate welfare and porkbarrel waste. Some of that is earmarked to go for so-called workforce training and new training centers which amounts to another jobs program for nonprofits for jobs that don't exist at the present time.

They claim this will help "lure" in future business now that manufacturing is supposed to be returning to America. Now let me understand this, present employers claim they can't get workers who are either skilled or can pass a drug test yet we're setting up a training programs for jobs that don't presently exist. Got it.

Some of this money for once is going to be used for the general public to attend college. That's fine except it still doesn't deal with our high school illiteracy problem and the fact these companies won't hire people with college anyway.

If one can get through all of their remedial classes which don't go towards a degree anyway and manage to get a degree they will simply be forced to join the thousands of others that have fled this low-wage poverty ridden community.

I have absolutely fought for years on this problem at the community college where I was teaching and was basically told shut the hell up.

Education in this community is an industry and not a path to prosperity or decent jobs for most of the general public. As they say in Bristol if you don't like it leave-and many do. Why are we surprised with what's left has all of the problems local business keeps whining about?

In conclusion the problem here is not infrastructure or money its political and social - poor business ethics, poor work ethics, drug and alcohol addiction, and low levels of education. We must also address corporate politics and the hostile anti-labor attitudes of local government.

Addressing one or two problems in isolation is simply a waste of time.

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.

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.

Opportunities are available through workforce training

Ref. http://www.tricities.com/news/opinion_columns/article_424bf468-c37b-11e3-9fca-001a4bcf6878.html

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: www.vhcc.edu. 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.


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. www.tricities.com

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