A Texas entrepreneur has been touring multiple Midwest cities saying he's looking for a home for a Chinese manufacturer of biodegradeable plastic dinnerware.
But a former employee of the man's business is raising questions about John Pitre and his plans for Variety Global Business Group. Additionally, the state of Texas has frozen five bank accounts in Pitre's name following a finding by the Texas Workforce Commission in favor of former employees that Pitre failed to pay their wages.
Pitre could not be reached for comment. A phone number listed on the Web site for Variety Global Business in Houston went to a voice mail system and calls were not returned. E-mail requests for contact or comment received no response.
In meetings in several communities during the spring and summer including Anderson, Ind.; Kokomo, Ind.; and Canton, Ohio, Pitre has said that VGB is affiliated with Dongguan Honghao High-New Technical Development Co. of Dongguan, China, and is looking at locations in 15 different states ranging from Maryland to Texas for a U.S. manufacturing center.
The company would use vacuum forming to produce bowls, plates, glasses and other table ware from cornstarch-based polymers.
Our mission is to develop the technology, to manufacture and to market environmental friendly products around the world. The current projects include bio- degradable tableware [Starchware] and process equipments, alternative energy and petrochemicals, the company's Web site states.
Pitre's visits have included town hall-style meetings in which he encouraged residents to find out more about the company's plans and support his efforts. In Kokomo, he said the plant would hire 150 to 200 people at the start and eventually could grow to 600 employees.
Our new technology can grow green business and produce environmental friendly products for the global marketplace and provide several hundred jobs to the Anderson community, Pitre said in a news release distributed in Anderson by New Hope Family Life Center.
Former Pitre employee John Armstrong, however, said he contacted Kokomo officials when he heard about the potential of the city providing tax incentives to tell them about Pitre's history in Texas.
Buyer beware, Armstrong said in an Aug. 13 telephone interview.
In a July interview with The Kokomo Tribune, Pitre blamed the issues he faces in Texas on a disgruntled former employee who is muddying up the waters.
Armstrong was the sales director for Your Credit Coach Co., in Houston, a company that helped small businesses build their credit history. Pitre was the CEO.
Starting in mid-April 2008, the company's paychecks bounced, Armstrong said. Pitre said it was a bank snafu but two weeks later, they bounced again.
After the checks bounced the third time, Armstrong and the other employees resigned.
Armstrong eventually filed a claim with the state commission in Texas to try and get the more than $7,000 he was owed.
In January, the commission notified Armstrong that it had determined that the employer violated provisions of the Texas payday law. The ruling is a civil case, said Lisa Givens, senior communications executive with the workforce.
The state's case against Pitre now lists a total amount due of $14,736.84, Givens said. It froze five bank accounts with inconclusive results, Givens said. The next step from the state would be to place administrative liens on Pitre's holdings if the freezes fail to produce results.
Armstrong, who now is CEO of another Houston-based credit company, Platinum Corporate Credit Inc., said he just wants potential business sites to be aware.
This caused quite a hardship for the people down here and their families. I hate to see that happen to someone else, Armstrong said.
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