Davis: Save jobs by creating revolving loans for struggling manufacturers

Published 12:25 am Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meadowcraft Inc., the nation’s largest manufacturer of outdoor wrought-iron furniture, might become the poster child for other troubled factories if the U.S. Treasury Department heeds a letter from 7th District Congressman Artur David, D-Birmingham.

Davis released a letter Friday he has sent to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about Meadowcraft’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company filed the bankruptcy reorganization petition March 20 in Delaware. Meadowcraft had been negotiating with Wells Fargo, RZB Finance Limited and Burdale Financial Limited for about a month. The banking creditors forced the company to file for bankruptcy, according to Meadowcraft officials.

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In his letter to Geithner, Davis said his office had received a number of complaints from Meadowcraft, which is facing liquidation, costing at least 1,300 jobs in Dallas County, which has an unemployment rate of about 18 percent.

The lender dealing with Meadowcraft was not named in the letter, but Davis identified the lender has received Troubled Assets Relief Program money, but won’t extend credit to Meadowcraft. Davis said he’s aware the government can’t make a bank lend money to a specific company, but the congressman points out that hard-to-get credit has placed many small-and medium-industries in jeopardy.

“While your predecessor argued that TARP would revive the credit market,” writes Davis, “Meadowcraft and other companies in my district are examples of a market that remains stalled in many respects.”

Davis suggested Geithner and President Obama examine redirecting some TARP dollars into revolving loan fund for manufacturers like Meadowcraft. “I believe that his approach can be undertaken without new authority from Congress, just as the Bush and Obama Administrations have extended TARP dollars to the domestic automobile sector without congressional permission.” Davis writes.

Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority, agreed with Davis’ proposal.

Vardaman and Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard met with Davis several weeks ago when the congressman visited the area. Vardaman and Ballard asked Davis to see what he could do to set up a guarantee loan or revolving loan fund for companies that couldn’t get loans, but had good sales.

“I applaud Congressman Davis for going forward to get that done,” Vardaman said. “He’s actually doing what we asked him to do. And this is not just Meadowcraft. There are a lot of companies in the Black Belt like that.”