Bristol’s local television station, WCYB, posted an article on their website on Thursday heralding the new jobs being brought to the area with the opening of the new Steak and Shake on Feb. 29. The restaurant, located at The Pinnacle in Bristol, Tennessee, will be hiring 130-140 employees. The article directed potential applicants to the Courtyard Marriott in Bristol, Va. on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 for the open interviews. Apparently, the job situation is so dire in the Bristol area that even fast-food jobs, once primarily filled by students and part-timers, are now considered big economic news.
This story follows on the heels of a story last week in the Bristol Herald Courier regarding the Feb. 5 closure of the Sprint call center in Blountville, Tennessee, bringing the loss of 444 jobs. This call center was formerly located in Bristol, Virginia, until they moved to Blountville, and many Bristol residents were affected by this closure. Over the past decade, call center jobs have replaced most industry jobs in the Bristol area, and now it appears that some call center employees will trade in their headsets for aprons.
Of course, the great explosion of retail establishments in the area has provided some sales jobs, too, but most of these positions, along with the server jobs, do not provide adequate benefits. This forces these employees to seek mandatory coverage from the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as it is commonly called. Anyone familiar with these healthcare plans knows that the deductibles are so high that if someone can afford the premiums, they still can’t afford to seek medical attention. Those who must go to the emergency rooms are left with massive bills that they cannot pay.
In what is a domino reaction, these unpaid bills, along with lack of Medicare funding being experienced nationwide, our local hospitals are suffering financially. The impending merger between Wellmont and Mountain States is due to both entities struggling to even stay open. Faced with providing so much uncompensated care, hospitals are unable to provide salary and benefits to attract and keep quality medical personnel to adequately staff their floors.
While driving through our area, the massive sprawl of retail developments gives the appearance that all is well. At least we have some interesting shopping venues in Bristol instead of travelling to Johnson City as we have done for years, thus helping the local tax base. Downtown Bristol has enjoyed an ever-growing reputation as a trendy arts, music and dining venue for those who can afford to participate. However, most Bristol area residents will tell you that things aren’t so great for most people.