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Firms tied to legislative leader, Senate candidate got loans

Posted at 11:10 AM, Jul 07, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — A company owned by a Michigan legislative leader and one run by a U.S. Senate candidate each received between $1 million and $2 million from a federal rescue program that was created to preserve jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson-based Orbitform, which was founded by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and builds assembly machines for manufacturers, was among nearly 20,000 recipients in Michigan that were identified by the Treasury Department on Monday. Another was Renaissance Global Logistics of Detroit, whose CEO is John James, the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters. The firm is subsidiary of the family-owned James Group International.

The Paycheck Protection Program helps smaller businesses to stay open and keep Americans employed during the pandemic. Under the PPP, the government is backing $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent and similar expenses.

Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify. About $130 billion was unclaimed when the application deadline closed June 30, so Congress voted to extend the program, setting a new date of Aug. 8.

The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 — the vast majority of borrowers. That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations, including The Associated Press. Still, the release of the data is the most complete look at the program’s recipients so far.

Orbitform said it was able to retain 110 jobs with the taxpayer assistance, according to data the U.S. government released. Shirkey spokeswoman Amber McCann said he is not involved in management of the company that he founded decades ago. The decision to seek the loan was made by a team that runs the operations of the business, she said.

Renaissance Global Logistics was able to preserve 101 jobs, according to the data. James’ spokeswoman Abby Walls said the aid ensured the company could continue providing health insurance to employees as auto parts shipping slowed.

The company is among the 5% of minority-owned businesses that were able to access funds, she said. The firm helped deliver meals, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to Detroit-area nursing homes, prisons and nonprofits.

Among the 185 entities in Michigan receiving the most aid — $5 million to $10 million — were Albion College, Bell’s Brewery, auto supplier Detroit Manufacturing Systems, the Michigan Education Association union, several small hospitals and large law firms, the government reported.

Roughly 121,000 loans were made to Michigan businesses or other entities, about 20,000 of them for $150,000 or more, according to the data. The aid totaled nearly $16 billion and covered more than 1.5 million jobs.

The industry with the most loans was full-service restaurants, at 4,126 covering a reported 96,280 jobs, followed by physicians’ offices (2,936 loans and 34,536 jobs), religious organizations (2,868 loans and 34,371 jobs), dentists’ offices (2,829 loans and 24,391 jobs) and lawyers’ offices (2,628 loans and 18,327).

Also receiving funds were small colleges, K-12 private and parochial schools, charities, car dealerships, real estate agencies, insurance agencies and car repair shops.

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