Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Barter Theatre Panics Over Cuts in Government Largess 2011

Lewis Loflin

Update September 2019: due to mismanagement Barter has posted another $500,000 loss. Tourism is down 16%.

Cuts by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts has spread panic at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon,Virginia. Even after handing millions of illegal tax dollars to non-profits to promote the Barter and other basket case tourism venues across Southwest Virginia, cuts in government largess is now taking a toll. They may join the failed Ralph Stanley House, William E. King Art Center, and the Story Telling Center in Tennessee.

The Barter Theatre is $400,000 short on their current fundraising drive. To quote Richard Rose Barter Theatre's artistic director:

"Certainly government cuts, particularly with the National Endowment for the Arts, and certainly on the state level make a difference. They've certainly upped the ante for us in terms of having to rely more individual patrons...With the kids we work with this is an experience that they wouldn't normally get and we like to expose them to different things. So a reasonable increase in ticket prices wouldn't hurt us."

They always fall back on "kids" to sucker the school system and local government out of money. Mr. Rose claims without more loot performances and programs may have to be cut. I predict the Virginia Tobacco Commission will call this once again "economic development" and misuse more taxpayer funds to bail out yet another non-profit. They have until the end of 2011. I suggest he raise ticket prices, get a real business plan, or shut the doors. Ref. BHC November 22, 2011

Definition of largess: "Liberality in bestowing gifts, especially in a lofty or condescending manner."

About Barter Theatre

The Barter Theatre, located in Abingdon, Virginia, opened on June 10, 1933. It is one of the longest running professional theatres in the nation. In 1933, when the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, most patrons were not able to pay the full ticket price. Robert Porterfield, founder of the theatre, offered admittance by letting the local people pay with food goods, hence the name "Barter".

In 1946, Barter Theatre was designated the State Theatre of Virginia. Many well-known stars of stage, screen and television have launched their careers at Barter, including Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Gary Collins, Frances Fisher, Kevin Spacey, Larry Linville and Wayne Knight. On The Lot winner Will Bigham acted at Barter Theatre for many years before pursuing a film career alongside his wife Catherine Gray.

In 2008 the Barter Theatre celebrated its 75th anniversary. Located in the wealthiest community in Southwest, Virginia, it's part of a vast system of taxpayer-funded amusement parks for the local rich. It was also in financial trouble even with taxpayer bailouts.

Since 2008 the Barter Theatre has had endless financial problems due to decreasing government handouts.

Please support the Barter Theatre. Visit their website at

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 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.


Lewis Loflin


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