State Seeks to ‘Claw Back’ $2.1 Million in Breaks Given to Southwick Clothing; City Also Has Claim

State Rep. Andy X. Vargas. (Courtesy photograph.)

Massachusetts has served the maker of Brooks Brothers clothing with notice that it intends to “claw back” more than $2 million in tax incentives after the Haverhill company announced its plan to shutter operations.

Haverhill Rep. Andy Vargas told WHAV Thursday night state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy’s office sent Southwick Clothing a “Notice of Decertification” because the company did not meet its “job creation and job retention commitments” when it laid off 413 workers. Vargas said he reached out to Kennealy.

“One of the things my office immediately looked into was what state tax credits were involved with Brooks Brothers here. We knew that it was $2.1 million from the Economic Development Incentive program,” he said.

The letter to Southwick’s May Tan, signed by EDIP Director Annamarie Kersten, also said she will notify Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini of the city’s rights to receive repayment of local property tax relief.

Asked whether the state action supersedes Brooks Brothers bankruptcy filing, Vargas explained, there are several matters in play.

“As with the other creditors in bankruptcy case, the state is going to have to get in line, but most importantly we’re hoping this sends a message that we’re hoping that the company takes care of their workers and seriously considers a buyer that can preserve these 400 jobs here in Haverhill,” he explained.

Southwick, through its parent company, has five business days to appeal the state ruling.

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