Taxpayers Foot Funding Bill for Republic's Failure

Aldermen learned Monday that the time-frame for suing Republic Windows & Doors to recoup $9.3 million in tax-increment financing funds that was issued to the company has expired.

The money was given to Republic on the condition "that the company create 549 jobs and retain them for eight years."

[Dec. 9:  Republic Windows Was Daley's Darling]

That goal and time agreement were satisfied, but alderman are incensed at the revelation that Republic executives formed a limited-liability corporation which purchased a similar plant in western Iowa, where labor is cheaper.

The TIF agreement, signed in June 1998, expired two-and-a-half years ago.

[Cook County Clerk's Office:  Taxpayer's Primer for Understanding TIFs]

"They accepted city tax dollars on the basis that they were going to remain in the city of Chicago. To accept these city tax dollars and do an about-face and run to Iowa to pay workers there less wages and fewer benefits runs contrary to the whole purpose of tax-increment financing," Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said.

Corporation Counsel Mara Georges told the City Council that even if the city did have legal standing to sue Republic, it would be forced to get in line behind Republic's other creditors.

"It's a bankruptcy with very few assets. They don't even own the building anymore. It's a market dependent on the construction industry. And with the economy being what it is, they don't have a lot of prospects," Georges was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times as saying.

Now some alderman are calling for future TIF deals to include verbage and restrictions to prevent a similar occurrence.

Ald. Manny Flores questioned whether the company ever fulfilled the promise to create and retain 549 jobs. During the six-day sit-in that attracted national attention, Flores said he went to the plant and asked the workers whether they had ever seen that many employees.

According to Flores, employees said they hadn't.

Last month, Bank of America cut off a line of credit to Republic, citing declining sales, prompting the company to shut down and fire its 250 workers with three days' notice.

The fired workers attracted national attention -- and turned Republic and Bank of America into poster children for corporate greed -- by conducting a six-day sit-in at the plant until they were paid severance and earned vacation pay.

Copyright CHIST - SunTimes
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