March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Niowave’s expansion up for a public hearing

Monday, July 2 — The Lansing City Council unanimously agreed tonight to hold a public hearing in three weeks for local high tech manufacturer Niowave, Inc., on a tax abatement the company is seeking as part of a multimillion-dollar expansion.

Niowave, which is based in an old school in the heart of the Walnut Neighborhood north of downtown, is seeking a six-year personal property tax exemption on new equipment as part of a 14,000-square-foot expansion. The abatement would waive more than $230,000 in taxes on new equipment over the next six years, the State Journal reported June 23.

Estimates of Niowave’s planned investment vary. Ken Szymusiak, of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, said tonight in a Council Development and Planning Committee meeting that the company plans to invest $2 million to $5 million; Mayor Virg Bernero’s chief of staff Randy Hannan pegged it at $5 million tonight; while Niowave chief operating officer Jerry Hollister told the State Journal it’s $10 million, “but it could be higher.”

The Bernero administration supports the expansion because Niowave is “one of Lansing’s premier high tech companies,” Hannan said tonight, urging the Council to approve it. Szymusiak called Niowave’s expansion “a great success story.” Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP, told the State Journal a week ago: “Niowave is leading the creation of an entire new industry, unique to Greater Lansing.”

The company has been headquartered on Walnut Street between Kilborn and Maple streets for about six years. The Council approved a personal property exemption on equipment when the company moved in. That exemption is set to expire this year, Szymusiak said. A 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act, or OPRA exemption, also was approved six years ago, which freezes the taxable value on a structure if it’s considered functionally obsolete or on contaminated property.

Niowave wants to use its new building — a 14,000-square-foot pole barn — for testing accelerators for rare isotope beams that could be used in medical devices, such as X-Ray machines. Niowave chief operating officer Jerry Hollister described the company’s work as commercializing basic research being done through Michigan State University. The company also plans to hire 15 to 25 new employees as part of the expansion, Hollister said.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 23 on the tax abatement. For more on Niowave’s expansion, check out Wednesday’s edition of City Pulse.