Stories indexed with the term ‘local development finance authority’

Ann Arbor LDFA Gets OK Toward Extension

A 15-year extension of Ann Arbor’s local development finance authority (LDFA) has taken another step forward in action taken by the city council on Sept. 2.

The extension – which would still need approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation – depends on establishing a relationship between the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti SmartZone and some other “satellite” LDFA. So the Sept. 2 resolution designates Adrian/Tecumseh as that satellite and approves an agreement with Adrian/Tecumseh.

The council’s vote was 7-4 over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). It followed a discussion that lasted over an hour, with questions from councilmembers fielded by city CFO Tom Crawford and LDFA board members Eric Jacobsen … [Full Story]

Live from the LDFA: A2/Ypsi SmartZone

The board of the local development finance authority (LDFA) meets today at 8:15 a.m. in council chambers at city hall. [.pdf of July 15, 2014 LDFA meeting packet] The Chronicle plans to offer a live audio broadcast of the meeting. After the meeting, the live stream audio player will be replaced with an .mp3 recording of the proceedings.

Update: The board failed to reach a quorum, but received reports. The update on the jobs audit is that the audit firm Abraham & Gaffney will be planning to audit jobs figures in the Ann Arbor SPARK Salesforce database. The board also received an update on the formation of LDFA satellites in Adrian and Brighton. One of those satellites will be selected as … [Full Story]

Council Gives Support to LDFA Extension

Ann Arbor city councilmembers have given their support to the local development finance authority’s application to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to extend the life of the LDFA’s tax capture arrangement for up to 15 years. Without an extension, the LDFA would end in 2018.

Action came at the council’s June 2, 2014 meeting after about 20 minutes of deliberation that concluded just before 11 p.m. Carrie Leahy, chair of the LDFA board, and Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko were on hand to answer councilmember questions. The voice vote by the council passed over dissent from Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1).

Ann Arbor’s local development finance authority is funded through a tax increment finance (TIF) district, as a “certified technology park” described … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor SPARK to Post Financials

The economic development nonprofit Ann Arbor SPARK will be posting its financial statements on its website, according to a letter written by SPARK executive director Paul Krutko on Dec. 4, 2013. Krutko’s letter was sent to Washtenaw County board of commissioners chair Yousef Rabhi and Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers – both of whom are members of SPARK’s board. The letter came after an Ann Arbor SPARK board of director’s meeting on Nov. 25, 2013.

The meeting and the letter came after SPARK had declined several previous requests for its financial statements – from rank-and-file residents, journalists as well as elected officials. SPARK’s previous decision not to release past statements became moot when Ann Arbor resident Kai Petainen … [Full Story]

SmartZone Group OKs SPARK Contract

Local Development Finance Authority board meeting (June 12, 2012): At its Tuesday morning meeting, the board of the LDFA took action on a number of significant items, including an approval of annual revisions to the LDFA’s contract with Ann Arbor SPARK to operate a business accelerator/incubator. SPARK is this region’s economic development agency.

Ann-Arbor-SPARK-LDFA contract

Extract from the marked-up version of revisions to the contract between Ann Arbor SPARK and the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA).

Besides the usual housekeeping changes (like changing the year from 2012 to 2013), substantive revisions to the SPARK contract include the following: (1) eliminating support for angel investment groups; (2) adding licensed software to be provided by SPARK to incubator clients; and (3) adding a new talent-retention internship program.

Another significant deletion from the SPARK contract is $5,000 annually for maintenance of a web-based educational module for entrepreneurs, called Cantillon. According to an LDFA resolution from early this year, the LDFA had invested around $170,000 over the course of five years in the self-paced program, which integrates feedback from a mentor. The tool had been used by SPARK for its Entrepreneur Boot Camps and in other venues. However, a formal request for proposals to commercialize it – to license and market the software to a broader audience – did not result in a deal.

The initial RFP was issued last year, in August 2011, and elicited no responses. On re-issuance of the RFP, Kurt Riegger’s Business Engines was the only respondent. Riegger had been the developer of Cantillon. After negotiation, Riegger and the LDFA were not able to reach mutually agreeable terms. With the failure to reach an agreement, and the elimination of the item from the LDFA’s contract with SPARK, the Cantillon education module was characterized by city CFO Tom Crawford after the meeting as “on the shelf.” Cantillon will not be offered as a part of SPARK’s September 2012 Boot Camp.

In other business, the LDFA board approved SPARK’s marketing plan. A video that was presented to the board as part of that plan got a positive reaction from LDFA board member Stephen Rapundalo. He appreciated the fact that it focused on support for entrepreneurs, as opposed to enhancing SPARK’s efforts “across the board.” SPARK has a broader mission and other funding sources than just what’s expressed in its contract with the LDFA – but the contract is focused on supporting entrepreneurs in the development of new businesses. So Rapundalo wondered if it were possible for SPARK to put all of its LDFA-funded marketing budget towards that same entrepreneurial focus.

Skip Simms, SPARK’s vice president for entrepreneurial business development, told LDFA board members at their June 12 meeting that it’s possible he might be bringing them a proposal for a significant additional financial request. That request, Simms said, would be for an additional incubator that would provide Class A “wet lab” space. He said the amount he’d request would be consistent with the LDFA’s 15% fund balance reserve policy, and would only target the portion of the fund balance that exceeds the 15% level. For the recently approved FY 2013 LDFA budget, that works out to a maximum of around $157,000. Simms sits on the LDFA board as a non-voting ex officio member.

Reaction by LDFA board members to the wet lab incubator idea that Simms floated was extremely guarded. But they appeared to be open to being convinced – if they were to hear a clear business plan and case for the need for additional local wet lab resources for start-up companies.

It’s worth noting that the LDFA’s contract with SPARK is separate from the support that SPARK receives from the city of Ann Arbor, which has amounted to $75,000 annually for the last few years. The city’s $75,000 contract with SPARK for business support services is on next Monday’s June 18 city council agenda.

The full LDFA report begins with some brief background on the LDFA itself. [Full Story]

Rapundalo, Taylor, Jacobson on LDFA

At its Dec. 5, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council made three appointments to the board of the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti SmartZone local development finance authority: former councilmember Stephen Rapundalo, current councilmember Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), and Eric Jacobson.

Of the positions on the 9-member LDFA board, the city of Ann Arbor appoints six and the city of Ypsilanti appoints three. One of the six Ann Arbor spots is for a member of the Ann Arbor city council, which had been held by Rapundalo, until he was defeated in the Nov. 8 general election by Jane Lumm (Ward 2). Taylor is thus replacing Rapundalo as the city council representative. Rapundalo’s appointment is to fill an existing additional vacancy on the board. Jacobson was also appointed to the LDFA to fill a vacancy on the board.

The local development finance authority is funded through a tax increment finance (TIF) mechanism for the same geographic district as the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti downtown development authorities. The LDFA currently receives no revenue from the Ypsilanti portion of its district. The taxes on which the increment is captured are local school taxes. The impact of the LDFA tax capture is spread across school districts statewide, due to the way that local school taxes are pooled by the state of Michigan and redistributed to local districts.

Based on data available through A2OpenBook, in fiscal year 2011, the LDFA generated $1.475 million in tax capture. The LDFA contracts with Ann Arbor SPARK to operate a business accelerator.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Council Moves on Future of Fifth Avenue

Ann Arbor city council meeting (Oct. 17, 2011): At its meeting last Monday, the Ann Arbor city council acted on two different residential development projects for the block of Fifth Avenue just south of William Street. Both projects are owned by the same developer.

Margie Teall Jeff Helminski

Margie Teall (Ward 4) with Heritage Row and City Place developer Jeff Helminski. (Photos by the writer.)

At the time of their votes – on the matter-of-right City Place and the planned unit development Heritage Row – councilmembers knew that one set of actions would become moot. Only one of the projects, located on the same site, would be built. A few days after the meeting, news emerged that Heritage Row is now off the table and that City Place will move forward, with construction planned to start sometime this fall.

That meant that the council’s action last Monday, to give initial approval to the Heritage Row project, will ultimately have no effect. Developer Jeff Helminski requested that the item be pulled from the council’s Oct. 24 meeting – a meeting that had been added to the council’s calendar specifically to take a second and final vote on the Heritage Row project.

At their Oct. 17 meeting, the council took two actions on the already-approved City Place project – one to allow flexible application of the city’s new landscape ordinance, and a second to approve additional windows on the upper stories and to change the siding. That added to an Oct. 3 decision by the council to allow greater flexibility in the sequencing of City Place construction.

Also on Monday, the council confirmed two appointments to the city’s zoning board of appeals. The ZBA is a body that has purview to hear any challenges to city decisions about the correct application of city ordinances and the appropriateness of administrative decisions, including those associated with matter-of-right projects like City Place.

In other real estate development news out of Monday’s meeting, the council approved changes to the elevations for City Apartments, a residential project at First and Washington scheduled to start construction yet this season. The council is expected to authorize the sale of the city-owned parcel at its Nov. 10 meeting.

The council approved the annexation into the city of a township parcel where Biercamp Artisan Sausage & Jerky has set up shop. A tax abatement for Arbor Networks, a computer network security firm, was also approved by the council.

Another significant item on the council’s agenda was the appropriation of $25,000 from the city’s general fund reserve to keep the warming center open this year, which is operated by the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County in the Delonis Center on Huron Street.

The council also approved a resolution of intent on the use of sidewalk and street millage funds, which voters will be asked to approve at the polls on Nov. 8. The resolution was amended to clarify how funding will work for sidewalk repair adjacent to commercial properties inside the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority district. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Tweaks LDFA Agreement

At its Sept. 19, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council voted to amend the agreement between Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti so that a councilmember who serves on the local development finance authority (LDFA) board will not serve on that board past the time they are a member of the city council.

Under the change to the agreement approved by the city council, the city council representative to the LDFA board would cease to be a member of the LDFA immediately when that person ceases to be a member of the city council. The change addresses the fact that appointments to the LDFA board are for four years, while councilmembers are elected to just two-year terms on the council.

To take effect, the change must still be approved by the Ypsilanti city council, and then the LDFA board must change its bylaws to be consistent with the agreement.

The change was previously discussed at the council’s July 18, 2011 meeting, when Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) was appointed by his council colleagues to a four-year term on the LDFA. Rapundalo, a Democrat, faces a challenge in the Nov. 8 general election from Jane Lumm, who is running as an independent. Lumm has assembled a long list of endorsements from prominent Democrats and Republicans.

The LDFA is funded through tax-increment financing (TIF) in a manner similar to the way the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is supported. A TIF district allows authorities like the LDFA and the DDA to “capture” some of the property taxes that are levied by other municipal entities in the district. The LDFA contracts with the economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK for various business development services. [For more background on the LDFA, see Chronicle coverage: "Budget Round 5: Economic Development"]

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

Expanded LDFA Board Reflects on Purpose

sticky notes stuck to poster for retreat exercise

As part of their look to the future, LDFA board members placed their sticky notes identifying the purpose of the LDFA to a giant poster on the wall. (Image links to high resolution image of entire poster.)

It was not anything personal, said Stephen Rapundalo to Skip Simms, who was sitting across the U-shaped configuration of tables from Rapundalo. He had just voted against Simms’ appointment to the Local Development Finance Authority board.

But over Rapundalo’s objection, shared also by his colleague on the board, Rob Risser, the body voted to add an ex-officio, non-voting seat to the LDFA board, which was filled by Simms. The occasion of the vote on Tuesday morning, held at the SPARK Central Incubator on Liberty Street, was the LDFA board’s regular meeting, which was also billed as a retreat – a facilitator was on hand to lead the group through an exercise to reflect on the organization’s purpose.

As Rapundalo’s assurance to Simms reflected, the new seat on the board was not created for Simms personally, but rather was specified as the designee of “the accelerator’s CEO,” who in this case was Michael Finney of Ann Arbor SPARK. Finney had designated Simms. SPARK contracts with the LDFA to provide services to high-tech start-up companies, and Simms is SPARK’s managing director of business acceleration as well as manager of the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund.

Simms already had a seat at the physical board table when the board’s deliberations took place on the creation of the ex-officio position. So why were Rapundalo and Risser opposed to the expansion of the board in this way? [Full Story]