Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Bristol Compressors to Cut Another 250 Jobs

by Lewis Loflin

Update, I told you so. It has now been announced that Washington County Virginia will forgo $650,000 in taxes Bristol Compressors should be paying, but claims it shouldn't. The County is saying it will cost too much to enforce so they happen to drop the effort right after Board Chairperson Dulcie Mumpower claimed aid was on the way. Make that $2.65 million they have paid this company so they could layoff over 2000 workers. Note all of this was conducted in back rooms aka 'closed session'.

To quote the press:

County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously ... to pay $650,000 to settle lawsuit with a former owner of Bristol Compressors, BC Liquidations Inc. The company had filed and potential lawsuits totaling more than $1.5 million, claiming it paid too much in taxes in the mid-2000s. Initially rejected by county officials, the claim was taken to the circuit court. County Attorney Lucy Philips said the settlement would save the county from the cost of litigation...

What about the damned employment agreements they defaulted on?

Right on the heels of almost 250 jobs being cut at Exide in Bristol, Tennessee comes more bad news from Bristol Compressors. They plan on dumping another 250 workers bringing their total to over 2000 in the last 10 years. They originally defaulted on a $1 million incentive package Washington County refused to enforce, then was handed another $1 million corporate welfare package. Now we lose another 250 full-time jobs right at Christmas. The company blames this on a "sluggish economy."

Washington County officials were quick to get on television and promise "assistance" to Bristol Compressors. Let me guess, another $1 million? While stabbing their workers in the back and after $2 million in taxpayer cash and likely millions more in other backdoor subsidies business enjoys here, CEO John Wadsworth says,

"We have been part of this community for a long time and we are taking the necessary steps to remain competitive through significant changes to our cost structure. Bristol Compressors has a reputation for providing high-quality products and services to its customers, which is a direct reflection of the quality of our employee base. We believe we have the best workforce in the industry and we will continue to be a company where all employees are focused on our customers."

In February 2009 Bristol Compressors joined the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing Inc. (SVAM) and was awarded a check for over $45,000 - reimbursement for workforce training completed by 194 of its employees. After all of this more bad news and it just keeps coming in 2011. To quote the Kingsport Times-News December 06, 2011:

Tuesday's announcement is the latest in a string of bad news for the Twin Cities. In early November, Exide in Bristol, Tenn., announced it would close about half of its operations here and consolidate the work at other manufacturing plants in the United States. Some 233 Exide employees are expected to be impacted in the next 12 to 18 months. In addition, Exide is considering moving other operations from Bristol, which could impact another 236 Exide employees.

Earlier this year, Brightpoint Inc. announced it would close its Touchstone Wireless business in Bristol, Tenn., impacting 357 full-time employees and 256 temporary workers here. The layoffs were expected to be completed in September.

In addition, Pfizer announced it would cut jobs in Bristol after it acquired King Pharmaceuticals. The drug manufacturer cut nearly 120 commercial and support jobs in Bristol and announced plans to cease manufacturing operations here by 2014, eliminating another 130 jobs. It also plans to close its logistics center in Bristol by next year, impacting nearly 20 people.

The problem continues to be the region is hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs while local government subsidizes $8 an hour call centers and engages in crony capitalism worked-out in back rooms. These deals replace only a fraction of the lost jobs at obscene financial costs to the community and tax payers. It's time to sever business and government and end crony capitalism.

See Three Decades of Job Losses in Southwest Virginia

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 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.