Bristol TN to give away $25 million for Bass Pro Kingsport Fights Back

by Lewis Loflin

The firestorm of controversy in Bristol, Virginia on a $100 million backroom corporate welfare for a strip mall deal has led Bristol, Tennessee officials to proclaim their deal with another developer "wasn't in back rooms and industrial development is done in public." Really? How come nobody in the general public knew until the deal was done? This development, I think called the Pinnacle, is at Bristol exit 74 close to Virginia exit 1.

It's main feature is a Bass Pro Shop, a large amphitheater, etc. It's about one mile from the Bristol Mall and within 7-8 miles of two existing large empty malls that once housed Sam's Club and Carolina Pottery. There are also two existing empty strip malls on Euclid Ave. in Bristol down the street from the Bristol Mall.

Why did the developer not use any of the existing empty property? Because the taxpayers will pay for his new location and wouldn't have given the money for the old locations. This will be in direct competition with Bristol Exit 7, the $50 million taxpayer funded shopping plaza planned for Exit 5, and the struggling Bristol Mall.

This makes no sense unless taxpayers are taking most of the risk. Bristol VA/TN and Kingsport are in a bidding war to attract retail so the sales taxes will fund their pet projects and fill the pockets of contractors, consultants, and their friends. They care absolutely nothing about the impact on jobs (most just shifting existing jobs around) and the enormous debt both sides of Bristol are going into. Kingsport was mad they couldn't come up with the money.

It's about crony capitalism. Communities in the past handed out big corporate welfare packages for manufacturing jobs, but now it's about sales tax collections. The fact these deals are negotiated in secret and the public is barred from finding out until the contracts are signed in simply corruption. The apathetic sheeple in Bristol VA/TN don't seem to care.

To quote Mayor Phillips of Kingsport:

"The request was for $25 million for the Bass Pro, which is actually a low figure if you go on the website and look at what other communities have paid for Bass Pro. You can't sell (general obligation) bonds so you have to have private developers that will put up that money up front and we were unable to obtain the $25 million dollars. Quite frankly, if you don't control the land you don't have anything to offer when it comes to economic development and in this case we didn't control the land. I wish Mr. Taylor the best of luck with his property."

Mr. Taylor is another developer who was trying to get Bass Pro Shop for his Heritage Point strip mall and lost it to Bristol. Now Taylor and Kingsport City government have ended their partnership and are fighting each other. It just never ends here.


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