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October 2, 2013

Roseville council approves ReNu Wireless tax abatement

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

ROSEVILLE — The Roseville City Council approved a 10-year tax abatement for new equipment at ReNu Wireless on Gratiot Sept. 24.

According to Mike Connors, the administrator of the Roseville Community & Economic Development Department, the abatement is a “win-win” for the city and the business, as the abatement only applies to new investments on the property. The abatement means that ReNu will only have to pay half the taxes it normally would on these new personal property investments, so it saves money while still bringing the city additional revenue.

Connors said the business — which will remanufacture and disassemble components from cellphones and tablets — is one of the first of its kind in Michigan and is expected to create 105 jobs over the life of the abatement.

Not everyone in the audience was completely on board, however. During the public hearing phase, Roseville resident Jim Madison said the council should make sure that the city will be getting everything promised in exchange for the tax “handout” to the company, adding that he had paid all of his taxes in full for the 41 years he has lived in the city.

“I’m not sure where those jobs will be coming from, whether it’s Roseville, Warren or Czechoslovakia, but what’s in it for us to give up money that the citizens of Roseville pay for the great services that the city of Roseville (offers)?” Madison said. “I firmly believe in the times we’re in that everyone should pay their fair share, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

City Manager Scott Adkins said that with the state looking at winding down the personal property tax over the next decade, the abatement gives the city an opportunity to capture some of that money. ReNu also is occupying and improving an empty building, meaning the city would get additional funds from inspections and permits.

He added that even if all of those jobs do not end up being filled by Roseville residents, there would be an effect for other businesses in the area.

“For every employee hired, there is a spin-off effect, whether they are buying gas or getting lunch at a local restaurant,” he said. “I hope we have a number of employees who live in Roseville or decide to move to Roseville.”

Finally, Adkins said other communities in the state are willing to offer those tax abatements to reap the benefits of a new business within their borders if the Roseville council declined.

Isaac Hannah, CEO of ReNu Wireless, said the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been very supportive of bringing the business into the state. Hannah also owns the Michigan-based company Wireless Giant and said he had seen strong support and growth in the area.

“It was during my touring around the country to figure out where best to put this that we were able to gain access to the Michigan EDC support, and the idea was born to bring this company from Mexico City to Michigan,” Hannah said.

Hannah said he also hopes to work with local educational institutions in the area to train and certify people to work in ReNu Wireless’ field.

Councilman Michael Switalski said most tax abatement requests that the city receives only add a couple dozen jobs, so the scale of the ReNu Wireless proposal was “unique.”

“That’s fantastic, and it’s really lucky for people in our area to get jobs,” Switalski said. “For the last few (abatement requests), we’ve never given 10 years, but you guys measured 10 years on our scoring system, and you deserve the 10 years.”

The company already is paying taxes on the property, he added, and has around $300,000 worth of equipment coming in that it would be paying partial taxes on, as well. Switalski said that, for him, it is worth the investment.

Connors said Michigan was competing with North Carolina for the ReNu Wireless facility, and down the line, the business hopes to get another building within Roseville to expand its work.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.