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Old 03-09-2014, 01:41 PM
 
Location: Kingsport
182 posts, read 213,982 times
Reputation: 144

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emigrations View Post
I'd like to know if that's a mean or median wage. A senior manager at Eastman can drag up quite a few of the $10-$12/hr crowd and make that average higher, but the median would tell a more accurate story.

What you're referring to is a "fat tails" distribution where the extreme ends have increasing values, while the middle has a decreasing value. That's obviously happening at the low end, but I'm not as convinced the aggregate income is increasing. Adjusted for inflation and labor force participation, I wouldn't be surprised if it had contracted locally over the past several years.

Kingsport is really a micro-level Detroit or Pittsburgh - an old Rust Belt town that was overly reliant upon one industry. While we haven't fallen to the extent they have, Kingsport (and the Tri in general) is also failing to reinvent itself the way Pittsburgh has. Nothing has replaced the manufacturing jobs for the masses, and I'm not sure anything will short to medium term, but we've replaced them with damn near nothing except food service and retail sales.

I missed a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's once I moved back from Des Moines, but the residents really don't have the spending power to shop there, so I think you will see more of these budget grocers selling less nutritious or off-brand items. It's all people can do.
The post said it was the Average Weekly Private Sector wage. Unfortunately that's the the way the BLS reports that component of wages. I never could find a median hourly wage, but the perfect isn't the enemy of the good and there's other data that rounds out the benchmark.

As pointed out in previous posts both the Tri-Cities median and mean family household income declined in 2012 when compared to 2008. The latest median is $49,462, down $2,526 from 2008. The Mean is $64,318, down $1,520 from 2008.

The Median earnings for a male working full time is $40,311, down $863 from 2008.
The Median earnings for a female working full time is $31,050 down $1,363 from 2008. If you adjust those salaries for inflation the decrease is more.

But none of that changes the original conversation. This is a tough economy. It's treating some people better than others.

I agree that in many ways Kingsport is a micro-level rust belt city. But I'd submit that it has done a better job of managing the change than those examples. And even with what we consider a decline the real GDP for manufacturing and all industries continues to grow. That doesn't mean it's perfect, because some people are doing well in this economy and others are not doing so well. And, Kingsport isn't the end-all to the Tri-Cities. I've lived in several areas before and if it gets to the point where I can't tolerate or afford it here I'll leave.

Last edited by Page2; 03-09-2014 at 02:07 PM..
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,317 posts, read 21,234,539 times
Reputation: 34732
Quote:
Originally Posted by Page2 View Post
The Median earnings for a male working full time is $40,311, down $863 from 2008.
The Median earnings for a female working full time is $31,050 down $1,363 from 2008. If you adjust those salaries for inflation the decrease is more.

But none of that changes the original conversation. This is a tough economy. It's treating some people better than others.

I agree that in many ways Kingsport is a micro-level rust belt city. But I'd submit that it has done a better job of managing the change than those examples. And even with what we consider a decline the real GDP for manufacturing and all industries continues to grow. That doesn't mean it's perfect, because some people are doing well in this economy and others are not doing so well. And, Kingsport isn't the end-all to the Tri-Cities. I've lived in several areas before and if it gets to the point where I can't tolerate or afford it here I'll leave.
These medians seem awfully high. Most Kingsporters I know are doing well to make $30k, much less $40k. Personally, I'd say that data was "massaged." Kingsport is mostly low wage retail and service work, and Eastman pays less than other Fortune 500s for similar roles in similar COL areas.

Yes, it's a tough economy. I know some friends and family who are well into the six figures and make out like bandits due to the TN tax structure and the cheap cost of living at this income level in the area.

None of the Tri-Cities are doing well. Mr. Costa is right that the area does need more amenities to attract talent, but it's not Eastman's job to provide them. "Amenities" generally come with a growing population, something the area doesn't have. The area needs two things:

1) Unified front. If the Tri-Cities acted as one for the purposes of business attraction, then it could combine its efforts and move forward effectively. With multiple governments squabbling over scarce resources, the area is going nowhere fast. I agree that a lot of the problem is based on the sales tax dependent revenue structure.

2) More people. More people could cause additional businesses that we don't have to locate here. Assuming the people are educated, ideally it could attract some higher end job growth.

The low tax structure is already in place, but on its own, it's doing no good. The area needs at least a unified voice for attracting businesses and an influx of better skilled laborers or find some way to bring the locals up to par.
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:28 PM
 
Location: A Yankee in northeast TN
12,353 posts, read 15,930,303 times
Reputation: 29780
Quote:
Originally Posted by Emigrations View Post
Mr. Costa is right that the area does need more amenities to attract talent, but it's not Eastman's job to provide them. "Amenities" generally come with a growing population, something the area doesn't have.
I disagree with that to some extent. In most of the larger cities I've lived the large employers DO contribute massively to the area amenities, in part because they realize those amenities help attract and keep talent.
Sort of a chicken and egg problem, but if Eastman is serious about wanting those amenities, it behooves them to team up with some of the areas other large employers and city govt's and pitch in to do something about it. Sitting on their hands and hoping someone else will take care of it probably won't go very far.
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:09 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,317 posts, read 21,234,539 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DubbleT View Post
I disagree with that to some extent. In most of the larger cities I've lived the large employers DO contribute massively to the area amenities, in part because they realize those amenities help attract and keep talent.
Sort of a chicken and egg problem, but if Eastman is serious about wanting those amenities, it behooves them to team up with some of the areas other large employers and city govt's and pitch in to do something about it. Sitting on their hands and hoping someone else will take care of it probably won't go very far.
You're right - someone does have to step up to the plate to provide the amenities to attract and retain capable employees. However, Eastman is a public company, responsible to its shareholders, and certainly isn't in the business of charity

Eastman donated both the land and a considerable amount of funding to the new YMCA/Aquatic Center project. That was a big deal right there. They're usually donating to local charities and causes as well.

I'm by no means pro-Eastman, but they're generally competent and well-run. You can't say that about the local governments.

If Eastman wants to provide amenities to its own personnel (which I personally think are lacking - how about free memberships to the new Y to start? The insurance is also lackluster), that's between the management, shareholders, and employees. It's under no obligation to provide such services to the rest of the town.

If Eastman and Costa do want to right the ship, I think they should do the following.

1) Do the best they can to clean up pollution and "the smell" and use their leverage to "advise" other Tri-Cities polluters to the same. The smell near the plant is atrocious. I've never smelled anything else like it. If they could get this under control, and I'm not sure it's possible, this would go a LONG way to making Kingsport more desirable. I have asthma and working "at the plant," even in an office building, was unbearable.

2) If they can't clean up the smell much at all, at least relocate personnel who don't need to be onsite at the plant to office space elsewhere. I realize this would be expensive, but I think it would be a net benefit and help retain employees long term. Most of the IT building and many office jobs throughout campus could work from elsewhere in town, away from the plant and its smell/problems, with no performance degradation. If they need to come into the plant, it could be done on an occasional basis.

3) Allow full time telecommuting. As of when I left a few weeks ago, only sales personnel and a few heritage Solutia employees who already had telecommuting worked out could telecommute full time. This would allow Eastman to attract and retain some senior or niche staff who do not need to be onsite full time. Eastman both has the software and infrastructure in place to allow more full time telecommuting.

4) Both pay the market rate and put the emphasis on contractors to pay the market rate for a position. Many positions are WAY below the market rate wage for similarly sized companies in similar CoL areas. My exact position with an EMN contractor paid a third less than with a contractor in Lebanon, VA for the same work. In my case, no decent IT support staff worth their salt will stay for $12/hr 36 hrs/week. This was with a contractor, but this pay was awful.

Cleaning up the town's smell and a lot of the blight downtown will be a big step in the right direction. If the town were less polluted and didn't have its smell, the rest of it would rounding out the edges. The onus shouldn't be on Eastman to do anything but attract their own talent, but I think they are capable and competent than the perpetually inept local governments.
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Old 03-10-2014, 02:17 AM
 
Location: Kingsport
182 posts, read 213,982 times
Reputation: 144
Quote:
Originally Posted by Emigrations View Post
These medians seem awfully high. Most Kingsporters I know are doing well to make $30k, much less $40k. Personally, I'd say that data was "massaged." Kingsport is mostly low wage retail and service work, and Eastman pays less than other Fortune 500s for similar roles in similar COL areas.

Yes, it's a tough economy. I know some friends and family who are well into the six figures and make out like bandits due to the TN tax structure and the cheap cost of living at this income level in the area.

None of the Tri-Cities are doing well. Mr. Costa is right that the area does need more amenities to attract talent, but it's not Eastman's job to provide them. "Amenities" generally come with a growing population, something the area doesn't have. The area needs two things:

1) Unified front. If the Tri-Cities acted as one for the purposes of business attraction, then it could combine its efforts and move forward effectively. With multiple governments squabbling over scarce resources, the area is going nowhere fast. I agree that a lot of the problem is based on the sales tax dependent revenue structure.

2) More people. More people could cause additional businesses that we don't have to locate here. Assuming the people are educated, ideally it could attract some higher end job growth.

The low tax structure is already in place, but on its own, it's doing no good. The area needs at least a unified voice for attracting businesses and an influx of better skilled laborers or find some way to bring the locals up to par.
Don't know what to say. The data source is the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey.
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Old 03-10-2014, 07:57 AM
 
Location: Tri-Cities, TN
185 posts, read 236,471 times
Reputation: 177
It's interesting to look at what amenities are "necessary". Many of the things I've seen mentioned aren't even a blip on my radar, nor anyone in our family really. Maybe I'm still in the "honeymoon" period of living here or something but my husband and I have found a nice little niche and enough activities (non-church related at that) to keep us busy. In fact, sometimes keep us too busy for our tastes.

Granted we are 36 and 45 years old respectively and have what seems to be a fairly decent combined income for the area (just north of 100,000 and not dependent on the local economy, as both of our jobs are not exactly what would be considered local). We have gotten involved with local show car groups, motorcycle riding, hiking, bicycling, etc. I personally am really enjoying many of the things ETSU offers. While it is a small university and doesn't bring in big sports and big shows or anything, the smaller factor is actually a draw for me. It has made it easier for a newcomer that wants to be involved to find a place to be. Maybe our sports teams aren't going to win National Championships, but they aren't the worst I've seen. They've been fun to cheer for so far.

We aren't fancy people. I've been pleased with my selection of stores and restaurants. I don't need super huge variety or 4 star places to eat. Honestly, upclass eating isn't my thing unless I'm on vacation. We take advantage of local shows and local events. I love to poke around antique shops and there are tons of little fun places to take family when they come to visit. I'm in love with the mountains and lakes nearby.

And weekend trips are SO close for some neat places if we choose, which isn't terribly often because we are so busy and enjoying ourselves here. Knoxville, Asheville, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte are all easy drives if we want to go.

Honestly, one of the things that many people mention is not having a social life without a church. If I have one complaint, it is my inability to find a church that really fits my needs here. I knew coming back to the Bible Belt, that I might struggle with that. I have options, but not like where I just left. It really comes down to my belief system being a little different than most and my denomination choices not having churches nearby. Despite this, I think we've found a social life just fine.

I've lived a few places in my life, my husband has lived more. We didn't always have a choice in where we were sent. I go into each new move with the mindset of finding the best things we can for the time we are there. Some places grew on us, some places we were ready to leave the minute we got there, some were not so bad. But we have each said to the other many, many times after arriving here, that this is it for us. Too many things are right here for US.

Sure, I'll happily support more nice places to shop and eat coming in or other amenities that find their way to the Tri-Cities. I won't discourage change and progress. I am not turning a blind eye to the negative aspects of the area that I do see.

For those of you that complain, what are YOU doing to make things better? We throw it back on the companies or the local government because they are the ones with the funds and all that, but are you talking to business leaders? Are you voting in the local elections? Are you joining groups and causes that have missions to improve the area? We can sit on this forum and complain about what we lack here or we can at least say we are each doing what we can. I'm not one of those people that thinks one person can change the world and all that (at least not usually), but I won't be complaining all day long until I can say I've done MY part to fix it.

Want ETSU to have better sports or academics? Ok, contribute to the groups that support scholarships for the athletes and the ETSU foundation. President Nolan is a VERY approachable guy. I've had quite a few conversations with him. He listens too. At least find out how you can help before complaining.

Want the downtown improved in JC, Bristol or Kingsport? I'm pretty sure all three have groups dedicated to this that you can join or even send a few bucks to.

Want a certain restaurant? Start letter writing and encourage others to as well.

Here is a biggy. Want better paying jobs? Start talking to the development councils around here. Find out what they are REALLY doing, not just what the media reports. Find out if there is anything that can be done to help bring new kinds of business/industry into the Tri-Cities. Support local/state candidates that understand the problem and have connections to fixing it.

Maybe these things won't work, but at least you did something instead of just whining. And Emmigrations, I'm fine with a little negativity and I get that you grew up here and have had to leave for financial reasons, but do you have any plan to come back ever? If not, then let the people that actually live here and have influence here "welcome" those that express desire to come. I see you are currently up in Indy. (Got in-laws up in those parts.) Indy is by far not a perfect place and you could do your part up there. If you feel you must warn those that are tempted to make the Tri-Cities their home, ok, but understand the longer you are away, the less you actually know. I can complain about my hometown all I want, but honestly, I haven't actually lived there in years. Even info I get from family still there is skewed and not entirely accurate. I refrain from every giving anyone major advice about the area and if they insist, I make sure it is known that I may not being painting a full picture of the current state of things.

If you DO plan to move back to the Tri-Cities at some point when better job opportunities present themselves, then find out how you can actually help your situation when you do. I get you are 7ish hours away, but you can still do things from a distance to help. Skip a Starbucks coffee or two a week and send $10 bucks a week down here to a group that could make improvements. May not sound like a lot, but every little bit helps.
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Old 03-10-2014, 07:11 PM
 
125 posts, read 139,001 times
Reputation: 134
Queenladybug - Nice to hear some positive examples of the region being a good place to live. I've moved quite a bit and lived in different countries and cities/towns and I think my usual approach is similar to yours - that each place is what you make of it, that every move is an adventure with new things to explore and new opportunities to get involved. I've lived in places I loved and some that were just fine. Never have I visited a place and put on the brakes so fast as I did with JC/Kingsport. I was surprised at my own reaction and frankly just disappointed and disillusioned. I keep hoping to find some hidden "pros" to outweigh the "cons."

A BIG part of this has much to do with my kids. (From your post, I'm guessing that you do not have children?) The schools are an issue. And weekend getaways are few and far between when you have sports games, practices, homework, birthday parties, etc. Also, I have a competitive figure skater and 2 avid hockey players. Right there, that would be GONE for them. That will be a real emotional loss. When you're at the rink 3-6 times a week, you're leaving behind a huge part of your life. Both also play soccer, so that will help a bit. I thought maybe we'd get more land in TN, but even that doesn't look likely. It's hard to answer the kids' questions: Will we still have a pool? Is there a skating club? A hockey team? a cool zoo? a dinosaur museum? Nope, nope, nope… but there IS…??? I'm still trying to come up with great things that the area DOES have to counter all they will be losing. It's not proving to be an easy sell.
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Old 03-10-2014, 09:45 PM
 
240 posts, read 575,968 times
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I'd bet within a decade Eastman has moved its headquarters & as many professional jobs as possible to somewhere like Atlanta or Dallas. I think the days of Fortune 500 companies like State Farm, BB&T, John Deere, or Eastman maintaining the bulk of their professional (finance/IT/management/engineering) jobs in small metros is numbered. Over a decade ago when I was looking during the awful 2001-02 recession most companies wouldn't interview non-local candidates. But those companies would; they were desperate for talent even with many people out of work. I'd have headhunters contact me about them, but I'd pass. Little appeal there. The world's a lot more connected than it was 30 years ago and people know what else is out there, massive amounts of information.

Some kid in the 1960s who grew up in rural Illinois and went to the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana might have been thrilled to start his career at State Farm because he didn't know as much about other options. Not so in 2014. The Internet changed everything.

I think the only smaller metros that will be thriving a few decades down the road are the ones that have some sort of special appeal, like Asheville (natural beauty, tons of outdoor activities, booming arts/culture scene that attracts young folks). And we'll have a lot more Youngstown, Ohios & Charleston, West Virginias.
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Old 03-10-2014, 10:14 PM
 
Location: Tri-Cities, TN
185 posts, read 236,471 times
Reputation: 177
Quote:
Originally Posted by wombattver View Post
Queenladybug - Nice to hear some positive examples of the region being a good place to live. I've moved quite a bit and lived in different countries and cities/towns and I think my usual approach is similar to yours - that each place is what you make of it, that every move is an adventure with new things to explore and new opportunities to get involved. I've lived in places I loved and some that were just fine. Never have I visited a place and put on the brakes so fast as I did with JC/Kingsport. I was surprised at my own reaction and frankly just disappointed and disillusioned. I keep hoping to find some hidden "pros" to outweigh the "cons."

A BIG part of this has much to do with my kids. (From your post, I'm guessing that you do not have children?) The schools are an issue. And weekend getaways are few and far between when you have sports games, practices, homework, birthday parties, etc. Also, I have a competitive figure skater and 2 avid hockey players. Right there, that would be GONE for them. That will be a real emotional loss. When you're at the rink 3-6 times a week, you're leaving behind a huge part of your life. Both also play soccer, so that will help a bit. I thought maybe we'd get more land in TN, but even that doesn't look likely. It's hard to answer the kids' questions: Will we still have a pool? Is there a skating club? A hockey team? a cool zoo? a dinosaur museum? Nope, nope, nope… but there IS…??? I'm still trying to come up with great things that the area DOES have to counter all they will be losing. It's not proving to be an easy sell.
Actually we do have kids. Total of six in fact. Two in college, but out of state. (Both had picked schools prior to us knowing we were moving here and talk is being tossed around about transfers to ETSU, but they are both a little too involved with their programs there for it to actually do. Still possible though, as they both like the area a lot and the school.) The other four are preteen and teen, but currently live with my ex for another year. We have a unique custody thing where we trade every two years.

So far the kids are quite happy about moving back here with us. One will be heading off to college before the move here, but ETSU is on the list. Not as high, since he is considering a program that isn't available here, but they have it at UT, so he might be close. The other three should have plenty to do within their interests though. I have two that are huge into drama and music and the programs here are more than adequate for them, especially compared to what they are coming from up in KY. (Actually as good as the programs they were in while living in Upstate NY.) The other is more into art and writing. They like sports enough, but the programs here will do for that. We have a neighbor with a pool that allows them to swim whenever, right next door. Camps at ETSU and other programs will round out most extracurricular needs. As for family activities, they like much of the same as my husband and I. We are a big car family and there are lots of car events. We all like to hike and explore. Small museums, antique stores, rides through the mountains and finding little remote jewels of places, that sort of thing is our style. I have a weird bunch honestly. Heck the mall has my 15 year olds favorite stores, which she do want have nearby at her dad's, so she is perfectly happy.

So much about what makes a place perfect for you and whether or not you have a good quality of life is dependent on interests and expectations. It works for us here. Upstate NY, while wonderful for some families, just wasn't going to cut it for us. The school system was great, plenty of activities, but we hated the weather and the housing situation we had.

It sounds like the loss of major activities for your family would be a deal breaker here. And I can't fault you for that in any way. The Tri-Cities isn't for every family. It can't be. But those that constantly beat on the negatives aren't helping those that might actually find it to be the right fit. Before I would jump in and tell someone they should or shouldn't move here, I would want to find out what they expect. Then I won't be offended if they need something else. I hate seeing a few posters just jump in and get down on someone just because they think they might actually like it here.
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Old 03-11-2014, 06:40 AM
 
Location: Tennessee
28,317 posts, read 21,234,539 times
Reputation: 34732
Queen, you probably don't realize it but you are proving my point exactly. On the first page I stated that the most vocal supporters of the area are those with incomes that aren't dependent on the local market rate, are from out of the area, and/or retired.

"North of $100k" income is more than double that of the median local household. Of course I'd be more cheerful on the area if I was making $50k there instead of $23-$24k with no benefits. But the reality is that most Tri-Cities residents are working for little to nothing. For every household like yours, there are probably four more in the Tri-Cities scraping by as CNAs, call center workers, food servers, or retail workers. These people don't have the same disposable income to enjoy some of the things that the area does have to offer like your family does.

As far as the day trips comment, only Knoxville and Asheville are really close enough for a true day trip. Charlotte is 3.5 hours away, Nashville is four plus, and Atlanta is five. These aren't really close enough to be viable for day trips IMO

Last edited by Serious Conversation; 03-11-2014 at 07:01 AM..
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