The South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund, which helped Batie start his business, is the kind of community-based improvement group that conservatives and liberals can both get behind. From the liberal side, the program is designed to help revitalize a low-income minority community. Conservatives, on the other hand, can take heart in the fact that its support takes the form of low-interest loans that are offered to new business owners.
In many ways, Leon Batie is the perfect bipartisan poster boy for the program. An African American man who lived in the community, Batie took out a $50,000 loan to open a Subway sandwich shop in the heart of South Dallas. Fueled by that success, he opened two more franchises, receiving another $25,000 in loan money along the way. His stores did quite well, and the fund lauded his success in promotional materials and newspaper articles.
Batie was also a US Army reservist and, in 2005, was called up for service in Afghanistan. He placed his brother, Chris, and another friend in charge of his stores; unfortunately, when he returned a year later, his accounts were in arrears and Subway had begun proceedings to strip him of his franchises. He claims that his offer to pay the portion of his rent that was in arrears was rebuffed by Subway. Not surprisingly, one of the people poised to benefit from the sale of Batie's stores was a Subway executive, who apparently pocketed $100,000 from the sale.
At this point, it's a somewhat moot issue. After Subway closed his stores, Batie decided to go into the military full-time, and is currently studying for his Ph.D in computer science. However, the failure of his businesses has ruined his credit rating and made him appear to be a deadbeat. In his new career, this will have severe repercussions, as poor credit can make it impossible for him to get security clearances. Effectively, this would close off his advancement in the military.
Beyond that, of course, Subway has stripped Batie of a healthy business that had the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consequently, he has launched a continuing legal battle to get Subway to reimburse him for the loss of his franchises. Batie's suit cites the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act; however, the Act was set up for workers, not owners, which has made prosecution of the case difficult for Batie.
Batie has met privately with his creditors and has set up repayment schedules that he hopes Subway will honor. In the meanwhile, his quest for clean credit -- and fair compensation -- goes on.