People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Toll Mounts

Alton Foley over at ImNotEmiril advises that another Southwest Virginia manufacturer is closing its doors in 60 days. (link) Webb Furniture over in Galax, Virginia, according to our favorite electrical engineer, will be no more. Webb, which had gone through a layoff of 151 of its employees just last year, is apparently throwing in the towel completely.

In addition, an emailer brought this article from The Roanoke Times to my attention this morning. Southern States Cooperative has been a mainstay in downtown Pulaski, Virginia since 1937 but will cease operations by the end of the month.

Also, I read the other day that Big Lots will be closing its store in Bluefield, Tazewell County in January and, it is rumored, the store in Wytheville will be shuttered at the same time.

It was not my intention to keep a role of those companies in Southwest Virginia that have folded in recent years but the bad news seems to be coming from all sides around here.

Our political leaders in Southwest Virginia - and in Richmond - are powerless to stop this implosion. They've given us no reason to believe they even have a grasp on the problem, much less be able to formulate a solution.

One more word about tourists and I'm going to scream.

Tragedy Strikes In Tazewell County

This sad news comes from the Associated Press out of Raven, Virginia over near Richlands in Tazewell County.

Va. Fire Chief Found Dead in Brush Fire

RAVEN, Va. (AP) -- The burned remains of a volunteer fire department chief were found in the woods after he went to battle a brush fire alone.

A search party found the body of Max Willard, 68, chief of the Oakwood Volunteer Fire Department, on Sunday morning.

Willard went into the woods with a fire rake about an hour after the blaze started Saturday and never came out, said Randall Ashby, Buchanan County Sheriff's chief deputy.

Ashby said it was not immediately clear whether the fire, smoke inhalation or something else caused Willard's death.

"His body had been burned by the fire," Ashby said. (link)

Raven is a small, close-knit community in the heart of coal country (with wonderful townsfolk, some of whom I've gotten to know). This news will be a shock to the villagers there.

Virginia Blog Carnival Is Up

It's that time again. The Virginia Blog Carnival is up and running over at Bearing Drift. You need to check out the many entries this week. You'll find them to be much more entertaining and informative than anything you'll read in the old media.

You'll also have the chance to learn what the heck a bearing drift is.

Give Them Debit For Trying

You have to hand it to the people of Southwest Virginia. Despite tall odds against them, they continue to fight the good fight to bring prosperity to a tortured region. At the forefront in that fight are civic leaders in Pulaski. Paul Dellinger, writing for The Roanoke Times, profiles a number of those leaders and outlines that which they're up against in "Spirit of rebirth surrounds Pulaski." (link)

Unfortunately, what becomes clear in reading Dellinger's article is that the effort of the area's political leadership to lure tourists to Southwest Virginia and to Pulaski in particular have failed.

PULASKI -- Every few years, the town of Pulaski tries to reinvent itself. In the early 1990s, it was going to be the antiques capital of Southwest Virginia.

... eventually the town's advertising budget dwindled and so did the antiques stores, although some remain.

In 2001, Florence Stevenson pushed the idea of turning Pulaski into a Polish-style village to make it a tourist destination. After all, Pulaski and Pulaski County were named for Count Casimir Pulaski, who was killed helping this country fight its Revolutionary War. And there have been many Polish-oriented celebrations in Pulaski through the years.

But the idea of turning store facades into Polish village look-alikes and dressing in Polish costumes, despite support from then-Mayor Charles Stewart, never caught on.

Now you'd think people would look for different solutions to recurring problems. But no. We're going to beat that dead horse - tourism - until it comes to life.
Today, Pulaski is trying a variety of approaches to attract tourists and rebuild its economy, which suffered as clothing and furniture increasingly went to other countries. Downtown banks have closed. A Wade's store, Pulaski's last downtown grocery, pulled out in 1998. Renfro, a sock manufacturer, idled 315 employees when it shut down in early 2004.

John White, the town's economic development director, sees tourism and diversification of the work force as key elements in a Pulaski renaissance. Among many other approaches, White is pushing the concept of a cultural arts center in the Maple Shade Business Park to attract the kind of people to Pulaski who will drive economic development from within, rather than rely on whatever outside businesses might be attracted.
You may recall a soon-to-be former state delegate to the Virginia General Assembly thought he'd bring vitality to the area by renaming Highway 11 "The Wilderness Road." Mr. White thinks putting a cultural arts center in a business park will draw tourists to the area (even though few people know it, Pulaski already has a fine arts center which sees few visitors).

How sad.

At least the mayor is taking a realistic approach to this kind of nonsense.
"I know there are many people who think it's not the right thing to do. And it may not be," [the mayor] said. But to do nothing is to see taxes continue to go up or services go down, while an investment of taxpayer money may generate new revenue and new people, he said. Besides, he said, tourism is a good deal.
It ain't going to work. He knows it. But he's willing to expend dwindling taxpayer dollars in order to ... do ... something. Besides we all know tourism is a good deal.

And we'll continue knowing it until the last employer locks his doors and heads to Singapore.

But let's give them credit for trying. No, wait. Their credit is no longer any good. It's time we issued these guys a debit card and demanded results up front.

Rather than ask people to dress up in Polish costume - I wish I had been there with those seven tourists who witnessed such a thing - demand that these people - our political leaders - create conditions such that employers feel obligated to relocate their businesses to Pulaski, Virginia - from Singapore - because it is truly a good deal.

As a famous person said, "Insanity is resurrecting tourism over and over again and expecting different results." I'm here to tell you: They's a whole lotta insanity goin' 'round these parts.

A Coincidence

It is an interesting coincidence that the New York Times features on its front page this morning an article pertaining to the decline in sales and profitability in the pharmaceutical industry ("Big Drug Makers See Sales Decline With Their Image") and an editorial demanding a tax increase on "Big Oil," ("Mr. Grassley Goes Begging"). In the latter, the editorialist writes:
We want adequate heating subsidies for the poor ... We also want more public investment in mass transit, alternative fuels and retooling Detroit, so that all Americans will be less dependent on oil and less vulnerable to oil price shocks. All of that requires money, which Congress could legitimately raise from a windfall profit tax on the oil companies, from an increased federal gas tax and - even more heretical for the current Congressional majority - from a more progressive income tax.
It's also an interesting coincidence that the writer cites the auto industry ("Detroit") as being in need of help.

Let me make a point as simply as I can. The liberal press and its buddies in the Democratic Party demand that we do to the oil industry what they've done to both the pharmaceutical industry and the auto industry. They want to destroy it. Through more taxation and lots more regulation.

Isn't it interesting that the Times has, in the past, called for higher taxes on the auto industry (taxes that foreign firms, by the way, are exempt from paying in most cases) and now calls for the auto industry to be nursed back to health? Do they not see a correlation? They'll soon be advocating government assistance for "Big Pharma" as well.

What is not a coincidence is this: Push American industries - through punitive taxation and eggregious regulation - into a non-competitive position and you too will be begging for someone to come to their aid.