Job Creators

Imagine my shock to learn that the country’s second-oldest fast food chain, Krystal, is leaving its Tennessee home after 81 years and moving to Atlanta.

If you live anywhere in the South you’ve no doubt paid a late-night, booze-soaked visit to what we affectionately term “Krystal’s,” famous for its bite-sized burgers. It’s like White Castle, only it’s not. Actually, to be honest, I don’t eat that crap, okay? So don’t ask me to explain it because I’ve never eaten at Krystal’s in my life. But I understand it’s a thing with you college kids. I think it’s one of these deals where you love ’em, hate ’em, hate to love ’em, or love to hate ’em.

Anyway, Krystal was founded with one restaurant in Chattanooga in 1932, grew to have a presence in nearly a dozen (mostly Southern) states and employ 6,000 people, went public in 1992, went bankrupt in 1997, was purchased by a private equity firm in 2012, and is now leaving Tennessee for Atlanta. That’s about the typical trajectory of a modern capitalistic company, methinks.

What I found interesting is the reasons given for leaving Tennessee:

The company first announced it would leave Chattanooga in fall 2012, saying that it could not affordably and reliably support its 350 restaurants in 11 states from the Chattanooga Airport. Transporting executives to the company’s far-flung locations was simply too costly and time-consuming, officials said.

“The Chattanooga Airport has direct connections with three of Krystal’s cities, while Hartsfield has direct access to all of their markets,” Derryberry said.

Nearby access to the MARTA rapid transit system will enable employees to ride to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is especially important as the company opens up 13 new restaurants in five states this year, said Pendergast. The long-term plan is to expand its footprint to 500 locations throughout the Southeast.

Wow, didja hear that, Gov. Haslam? Chattanooga’s crappy airport and lack of rapid transit — not gun laws, state tax rates, immigration laws, or the 10 Commandments on the courthouse walls — cost Tennessee an iconic, native employer. Imagine that.

Yep, we’re talking big, socialist, government-funded infrastructure projects like a larger airport and high speed rail. The kind of big-dollar projects that create tons of jobs when you’re doing them and keep employers in the state when you’re done. The kind of projects that build communities.

Apparently government doesn’t create jobs, but government inaction sure loses them.

But hey, they’re leaving behind a museum:

“Krystal has been gathering memorabilia over the past few months and making plans to showcase the company’s rich past,” she said. “Going through over 7,000 photographs and looking through 80 years of history has been time-consuming but extremely important.”

Bob Doak, president and chief executive officer of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, cheered the prospect of a new downtown museum.

“I believe something like this will pique the curiosity of visitors,” Doak said. “If Krystal wants to give back, to have a presence in this community, it would certainly be welcomed.”

That, my friends, is the quintessential silver linings CVB quote. A museum? Pfft. That’s the equivalent of a historic marker in front of the parking garage telling you about the fabulous building that used to stand on this spot. Nashville is full of them. And this is what happens when you wear blinders and are only looking two feet in front of you, instead thinking of the long term. This is the Tennessee disease: we’re incredibly short-sighted here, always have been. It’s only a miracle that things like Nashville’s now-awesome historic downtown were ever saved in the first place. But I digress.

We’ve been talking about the need for high-speed rail in Tennessee for years now. From the memory hole:

Tennessee could benefit from such a line, especially one linking Knoxville in the east with Memphis in the West. That 400-mile line could tie in to rail lines in other states.

This isn’t likely to happen, however, since there appears to be little interest among state officials or the state’s lawmakers.

The exception, fortunately, is Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, a longtime supporter and former consultant for the project that would link his city with Atlanta. Drive Interstate 75 between Atlanta and Chattanooga, and it won’t be difficult to understand the need for a high-speed train.

Tennessee was not among the two dozen states last month seeking a share of the $1.2 billion that became available after Florida and Wisconsin turned down federal funds for high-speed rail projects that previously were approved.

With Krystal’s exit, I think we know why ex-Mayor Littlefield saw the need for rail transit. It’s too bad we have so few people in state government with any vision. The problem is that we are living in a rapidly changing world and that requires people who want to spend the bulk of their time planning for the future.

Instead what we’re stuck with is a group of people firmly entrenched in the past, who spend the bulk of their time trying to figure out how we can all be forced to live in it.


Filed under employment, Tennessee

14 responses to “Job Creators

  1. Ivan Ivanovich Renko

    This is the Tennessee disease: we’re incredibly short-sighted here, always have been.

    This is the American disease, carried by MBA grads to every medium to large company in the country. When your only focus is next quarter’s numbers, you don’t have time to think about five years from now.

  2. Ivan Ivanovich Renko

    Oh– I’ve said it many times; that the only things I miss from my hometown is family and food… and yes, the 1:30 am sack of Krystals is one of the things I miss.

  3. It seems to be an affliction on the RIGHT…we won’t spend money NOW (especially if it benefits others more than ourselves) and then bitch because we are in a MESS, or finacial or environmental calamity a few years down the road. THEN we need to CUT SOMETHING!!!!!!!!

  4. democommie

    The invisible hand of the market spends too much time in MY pocket.

  5. Barb_in_GA

    So now we’ve got Krystal, Waffle House and Chick fil A? BINGO!

    If Atlanta’s mass transit is held up as some kind of paragon, I just don’t know what to say. I’m 20 miles from the city center, and a 20 minute drive from the nearest rail or bus station. I find the mass transit situation appalling for a city of this size.

    • Yeah but you guys are so far ahead of where you used to be. Last time we were in Atlanta we were able to park the car at the hotel and go EVERYWHERE on the amazing MARTA train. I’ve been to Atlanta numerous times and let me say, that was the first time I ever EVER got around on mass transit. Always before I was trying to figure out all the different “Peachtree Streets” in my car.

      • Barb_in_GA

        OK, I’ll give you that. Next time you’re in the ATL I’ll take you to the Yellow River Game Ranch and introduce you to Gen’l Lee. 🙂

  6. greennotGreen

    Years ago in the Nashville Scene’s “You’re so Nashville if…” contest, one of my favorite entries was, “You’re so Nashville if you go to Krystal *even sober.*”

  7. This blog is on my required reading list. Yet the fact our hostess has never eaten at Krystal or Waffle House makes me think she’s a bit elitist. C’mon SB, everyone needs a little grease and TVP every now and then.

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  9. Mr Stagger Lee

    Taxes to build stuff, that actually may bring jobs???? But…But… Rush said it wasn’t so?!!! Next thing you know we may need taxes to improve schools to have an educated work force? But St.Ayn said that was not so!!!???

  10. Just Surfed In

    Ironically, it’s a very good time to build infrastructure.

    Low interest rates means borrowing has never been cheaper.

    But, alas, the MBA party isn’t big on such details.

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