HAVERHILL — The city has successfully recovered nearly $462,000 in tax breaks it gave the owners of the former Southwick Clothing factory in exchange for opening a manufacturing facility in Haverhill’s Broadway Business Park in 2014, according to Mayor James Fiorentini.
The 2014 agreement, approved by the mayor and City Council, granted Southwick’s parent company, Golden Fleece Manufacturing Group LLC, the tax credits in exchange for moving the factory to the former Lowe's store, keeping 468 permanent jobs in the city and adding another 70 new jobs by 2018.
The company, which was known for making Brooks Brothers suits, was in talks at the time to move its jobs and the plant outside the United States. Southwick, originally located in Lawrence, first moved to Haverhill, next door to Magellan Aerospace, in 2009.
When Southwick abruptly announced last year that it was declaring bankruptcy and closing the Haverhill factory, Fiorentini said he would fight to recoup the back taxes. After the city filed a claim in federal bankruptcy court, the parties were able to reach an agreement and the city received a check last month for $461,924.
“We are thrilled to announce that all the money given in tax breaks has been returned to the taxpayers of the city," Fiorentini said. "This money will help us to balance next year’s budget and provide our citizens with the services they need and deserve."
The mayor said the city cannot spend the funds until they are certified by the state Department of Revenue as so-called free cash, which is expected in October or November.
"For almost 12 years, Southwick provided hundreds of jobs in our city, many of them for Haverhill residents,” Fiorentini said. “Giving them a tax break to bring them here and save those jobs was the right thing to do for our city and for the families who had jobs."
The mayor credited city lawyers for inserting legal provisions into the Southwick tax agreement that allowed the city to “claw back” the tax breaks.
He said the court’s bankruptcy ruling paved the way for the owners of the former Southwick factory to sell the property at 25 Computer Drive for $14 million to Boston-based Eastern Real Estate.
The new owners are leasing the property to Amazon, which is currently renovating the building with plans to soon open a “last-mile” merchandise delivery hub there.
Amazon is one of three companies, including a high-tech center and a large food-making plant, that are bringing approximately 750 jobs to Haverhill this year, the mayor said.