When consumers stop buying, Kingsport feels it
The city of Kingsport is located in the northeast corner of Tennessee, right on the Virginia state border.
TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: Marketplace's Wall Street reporter Jeremy Hobson has been drivin through the state of Tennessee taking the economy's temperature. He's in the city of Kingsport, in the northeast corner of the state. Hi Jeremy.
Jeremy Hobson: Hi Bill.
Radke: What are you finding in Kingsport?
Hobson: Well Kingsport is a small mountain town, there are about 45,000 people here, it's almost entirely white. And many of the people here work for the big chemical company Eastman. So they really feel it when the consumers around the country start to cut back, because the chemicals here go into everything from soda bottles to car paint. And even the people who don't work for Eastman feel it. I spoke with a hairdresser named Kimberly Monehun. She says people here are going longer between hair cuts, and that is making things harder for her.
Kimberly Moneyhun: As a matter of fact, I'm looking for a second job now to cover for nights. I'm single so I've got to take care of myself, so it's going to take something else.
Radke: And Jeremy, in your conversations with the people in Kingsport, how confident are they that their economy is going to come back?
Hobson: Well it really depends who you ask, Bill. I spoke with a retiree who said things are terrible; I spoke with a small business owner who said things are tough, but they're starting to get better. Here's an Eastman employee named Wayne Chastain:
Wayne Chastain: When consumers stop buying, we definitely do feel it, and lines slow down. We were at fairly low capacity utilization for quite some time, but things have certainly picked up since then, so. It looks at least within the chemical industry, within our particular portion of the chemical industry, that things are recovering, and that's good news for us.
And I asked Wayne Chastain who he blames for the recession. He said he doesn't blame Wall Street, he said they were just doing what they could to maximize their profits given the regulatory structure that's in place. And he says he doesn't really blame Washington, either. He and many of the people I spoke with don't have a lot of blame for this recession. They say recessions happen, just have to get through them when they come.
Radke: Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson is driving through Tennessee, and he's in Kingsport, in the northeast corner of that state. Jeremy, thank you.
Hobson: You're welcome, Bill.