When the Comprehensive Planning group met at Slater Center on July 27, many of the participants expressed a unified concern about the fact that young adults have a hard time remaining in Bristol due to lack of jobs. So how can we be sure that children can grow up to stay in Bristol? The issue really comes down to if they can have a good job that is not just in retail.

You might think retail is a sure thing that is not going anywhere, and that is probably true from the consumer end, but from the viewpoint of the jobs, the future of employment in retail is diving. According to the World Economic Forum, sensors and digital devices are going to create “hyper-personalized” customer experiences which with technology serving us, the retail jobs will fall significantly, checkout will be done remotely when you leave the store with your product, so no need for baggers, there will be automatic household deliveries that could be done by driver less cars and drones, and all of these point to less jobs in retail.

The cost that has been poured into the Pinnacle seems problematic because it is not sustainable and all the money spent in these big box stores is funneled out of small private businesses.

In the past couple years, Bristol Virginia and Tennessee have invested heavily in retail oriented job development such as that in the Pinnacle and Cabella shopping areas. But what happens when retail goes bust? As our community builds a comprehensive plan for the next 30 years,

Between 1993 and 2009 Ponca City Oclahoma lost the single industry that had been providing the majority of the jobs for the town. According to a 2010 study by the International Economic Development Council, “Ponca City, Oklahoma was not only a one-company town but a one-industry town, with the local economy 80 percent oil-dependent and totally invested in the success of Conoco.”

Yet Ponca was not passive in its response to the busting local economy, it formed an economic development advisory board, started an aggressive business retention program, a workforce training program, a business incubator and a business accelerator. 3,000 new jobs have been created in Ponca due to these efforts.

Maybe you don't want Bristol to look so barren as it currently does in parts, but if you are like the people who so far have been polled at a Comprehensive Plan Meeting, you know the need to be careful as we build our town that we do not build for a boom that does not last. That is what people mean by sustainable economics.

One area that already seems super strong is our region's health care jobs which are on the influx. How can we bring more of those jobs into our city?

I have no doubt that Bristol's sustainable future lies in the hands of the participants of the upcoming comprehensive plan meetings. It would be good to see a packed room of young people at that meeting.

Next Community meeting for the comprehensive plan will be in October.