Nov. 21 2013 12:00 AM

But still isn’t paying full price to fix pole barn

The controversial pole barn, 1012 Walnut St.

Thursday, Nov. 21 — Niowave Inc. is investing $202 million in a new Lansing facility at the Capital Region International Airport, but it’s not paying the full $244,100 it’ll cost to fix its unsightly pole barn in the Walnut Neighborhood.

Amid positive business news about the company’s plans to open a medical isotope production facility, which officials said today will put Lansing on the international map for advanced manufacturing, you might pause to wonder why the company isn’t paying full price to fix a building that led to a year-long fight with neighbors over its appearance.

When asked how he thought it’d look that the company is investing major dollars on a new facility but won’t pay the full price to fix the façade, Niowave Chief Operating Officer Jerry Hollister shrugged and said, “We’re going to get through this first phase” of the new project.

Hollister also explained today that the investment funds are coming from outside sources over the next five years — that it’s not just $202 million the company has lying around.

In September, company and city officials and neighborhood leaders announced an agreement to fix the appearance of the 14,000-square-foot testing facility adjacent to its Walnut Street School headquarters at 1012 Walnut St. (A press conference was held inside the building today.)

The sides agreed to a $244,100 exterior makeover, with Niowave paying less than half of it — $120,500. The rest will come from a revolving fund administered by the Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority that’s made up of fees paid by developers working on brownfield projects. The fund money can pay for eligible activities including landscaping, parking lot resurfacing and demolishing portions of the building.

Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, pointed out that those are not taxpayer dollars, but rather money contributed by various developers.

“That’s what it’s for,” Trezise said of the use of the revolving fund dollars. “The $200 million is from investors and financiers. Niowave didn’t just come up with $200 million.”

The controversial $10 million project broke ground in July 2012. Negotiations between the company, LEAP and neighbors lasted for 14 months.

Inside that facility today, though, was a host of political, business and economic development officials lauding the company for staying in Lansing after being courted particularly by the state of Illinois to expand its particle accelerator business there.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said the city was “laying the groundwork, the foundation” for Niowave to expand here, “All the while political winds were switching and the controversy in the media (over the pole barn) — oh, I’m not supposed to talk about that,” he joked.

But he was far more enthusiastic about the company’s future in Lansing.

“We are creating the next Michigan economy here in Lansing,” he said.

As for the plans, Niowave is building a 50,000-square-foot “medical isotope production facility” in the Next Michigan Development Zone at the airport, which is part of a 425 tax-sharing agreement between Lansing and DeWitt Township. It will add 90 to 120 jobs at an average salary of $60,000.

Niowave will now compete in the radiopharmaceutical industry, a worldwide $3 billion industry that’s led largely by producers in Canada and Europe, officials said today. It’s the first such facility in the Midwest.

The $202 million investment goes toward the new building, a superconducting accelerator and production equipment, intellectual property and licensing costs.

“The anticipated construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (F-RIB) at Michigan State University, combined with Niowave’s radioisotope production facility, makes the Lansing region a global powerhouse in particle acceleration as the Michigan Accelerator Region of the United States,” according to a prepared statement.

The project is supported by a $3 million loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund, which goes toward the $79 million in “hard costs” of the project. The company may also receive over $12 million in tax abatements for the project.