Social Apartheid Continues 2005-6

"The Best Cities to Earn and Save Money," ING Investments in 2001 ranked the Bristol community tops as a retirement community, near the bottom in education and jobs.

ING Investments for some reason dropped its investment rankings about 2002, so that data is about five years old. But the Kingsport Times-News in November 8, 2005 announces, Tri-Cities ranks 77th nationwide as best place to live out of rankings for 331 metro regions. This is according to the 2005 Sperling's Best Places list. See www.bestplaces.net. The Tri-Cities is referred to as the Johnson-City-Kingsport-Bristol, Tenn.-VA.

But ING defined 125 metro areas while Sperling defined 331. They show Tri-Cities ranked first in Tennessee beating out No. 103 Knoxville, No. 205 Nashville, No. 210 Chattanooga, and No. 304 Jackson. But the fact is Tennessee as a state on the national level ranks very low in education, income, etc. According to Sperling, "Health care ranked very high...a reasonable cost of living, pleasant climate, less traffic congestion and relatively low crime rates." This is all very true and ING ranked the region as one of the best retirement communities in 2001. But when I contacted Sperling and asked why they didn't figure in economic issues, they replied, "We can't track everything." Go to their website and one word stands out, "retirement."

And while local politicians applaud the rankings, a closer look reveals some troubling information. Tennessee ranked far below Virginia in general, and Tri-Cities ranks far below most of Virginia: Charlottesville, Va. - home to the University of Virginia - ranked No. 1; No. 7 Atlanta; No. 8 Asheville; No. 11 Roanoke; No. 13 Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; No. 15 Lynchburg; No. 55 Richmond-Petersburg, Va.; and oddly No. 81 Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point, N.C., a booming region was ranked lower. Asheville is a two hour drive from Bristol ranks No. 8, while nearby is No. 172 Wilmington, N.C. and No. 254 Hickory-Morganton, N.C.

But according to Jeff Fleming, assistant Kingsport city manager for development, "We typically score well in climate, cost of living, heath care and transportation. We lag in education attainment, arts and culture, and economy, but when you look at the big picture, we look very attractive from the outside." But form the inside is another matter.

While Sperling cares little for working class issues and more for retirement, they do reveal some terrible trends. The national per capita income is $21,658, but only $13,472 or almost 38% below the national average for Bristol, Virginia, while the cost of living is only 16% below the national average. National household income is $44,958, but for Bristol, Tennessee is $33,380 or 26% below the national average, while the cost of living is only 10% below the national average. For Bristol, Virginia household income is 32% below the national average. Jeff Fleming might be right, we look good from the outside. For years they have used our lower cost of living to justify low wage scales. Mexico has a very low cost of living too.

A Look at the Last 15 Years


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