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Defunct steel firm ordered to repay $500,000 to Tampa nonprofit group

TAMPA — A judge has ordered a defunct Tampa business to pay more than $663,000 to a nonprofit group that lent its owners money to launch their operation.

The final judgment against Renaissance Steel and Renaissance Technologies came last month.

Company principals are scheduled to provide information on their ability to repay the money to the nonprofit Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa in a deposition set for Tuesday.

The group, whose mission is to fuel economic growth in East Tampa, received a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2005.

The nonprofit group then lent $500,000 to Renaissance Steel, a company whose investors included developers Bill Bishop and Bing Kearney and Lazydays RV Super Center founder Don Wallace. Investors put up $2.1 million to get the business started. The nonprofit agency contributed almost $300,000 in in-kind services.

In exchange, Renaissance promised to create manufacturing jobs in East Tampa. Renaissance Steel agreed to pay the money back over 13 years at 6 percent interest.

But the company folded in 2007, leaving a long list of debtors. Many of those cases were settled.

The agency took Renaissance to court to recover its money.

The company was ordered to pay back the $500,000 plus $163,973 in interest and legal fees.

The court identifies Bishop, who helped build FishHawk Ranch and Westchase, as the registered agent of both companies.

He left Tampa last year and enrolled in a master's program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Frank Sanchez, a onetime candidate for Tampa mayor, was last at the helm of Renaissance Steel. He could not be reached for comment. Sanchez has been nominated as undersecretary of commerce for international trade in the Obama administration. He is awaiting final congressional confirmation to the post. Sanchez was a special assistant to the president in the Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas under President Bill Clinton.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Defunct steel firm ordered to repay $500,000 to Tampa nonprofit group 08/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:07pm]

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