Senate candidate John James’ company, Renaissance Global Logistics, is built on a history of tax avoidance and breaking deals with Michigan.
DETROIT, MI — Senate candidate John James has made his business savvy a core pillar of his campaign, and often frames his story around a family that rose from nothing by virtue of sheer grit and determination. He often says he doesn’t believe in handouts.
Companies owned by James got tax breaks for jobs they never created, according to the Metro Times.
Keeping the Cash but Failing to Deliver
Under James’ tenure Renaissance Global Logistics the company received $2 million in tax breaks from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation on the condition that they add 108 jobs to their workforce. The company lost 30 jobs instead.
And the company got to keep the $2 million anyway.
While James’ campaign did not respond to requests for comment, campaign spokesperson Abby Walls provided a written statement to Salon.
“John James’ family business is a good community citizen that pays its taxes, works to provide good jobs with quality healthcare, and support our Michigan-made manufacturing,” Walls wrote.
His company RGL received more than $1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program on similar conditions during the height of the coronavirus pandemic this summer. The PPP was designed to keep workers employed during the initial economic strain posed by the pandemic. As The ‘Gander reported, RGL was awarded money from the PPP where the vast majority of Black-owned businesses were not, despite its failure to meet similar terms for its MEDC tax breaks.
James, The ‘Gander reported, was one of several high-profile Michigan Republicans, and Republicans nationally with ties to President Trump, to receive a large sum from the PPP. And James has said he is “2,000%” behind Trump.
But those aren’t the only times RGL dodged taxes. His RGL was built to dodge taxes.
A Renaissance in Tax Avoidance
RGL was built in, and seemingly named for, a “Renaissance Zone” created by former Gov. John Engler. These zones were free from state property, utility and income taxes for businesses. But RGL was also built in a federal “Empowerment Zone” making it eligible for a $3,000 tax break from the federal government for every employee. Combined, this made RGL one of the least taxed businesses in Michigan according to a 1998 report by the nonprofit Citizen’s Research Council.
That Renaissance Zone eventually had a job creation requirement, and that requirement was one RGL was unable to meet. RGL self-reported that under James’ tenure the company failed to create even a single job in Michigan, according to the Metro Times.
But even though RGL lost jobs, the tax breaks were a windfall for the company.
“In many instances, RGL has been able to outbid its non-Renaissance Zone competitors due in large part to utilizing tax exempt status on many state and local taxes,” James’ father, also John, wrote in 2010. “As such it has played a major role in RGL’s success over the years.”
And James himself pulls down almost $2 million in salary and another $2 million in stock dividends according to his financial disclosure documents.
But, like Trump, James frames himself as a self-made man and has campaigned as a job creator.
“Right now, we have the opportunity to send someone to Washington who understands what it takes to look out for livelihoods and not just grow jobs, but to grow job creators in an industry, in an industry that needed a bailout, in a city that went bankrupt, in a state that was just emerging from a recession,” James said in a private fundraiser leaked to The ‘Gander. “These are things that we cannot trust politicians to lead us through. They’re literally campaigning on failure.”