CONNECTIONS2CAREERS Executive Vice President Kim Oderkirk is shown (center) during the launch of the new business inside of the Wesener Building in October.
So far, the Books and Beans side of the Wesener is now in use and business plans are in the works for the southern storefront, too.
(Independent File Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Owosso City Council held two public hearings regarding possible termination of tax breaks on the Wesener Building in downtown Owosso during the regular council meeting Monday, Dec. 6. The first public hearing was over the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate (OPRA). The second public hearing was over the Brownfield plan. Both tax breaks were involved in incentivizing redevelopment of the 1886 Wesener Building, following a deadly fire in July 2007.
In 2011, Dave and Dianne Acton purchased the building and began reconstruction. The building has both a commercial and residential element. Council members discussed both during the Monday meeting.
Owosso City Manager Nathan Henne acknowledged that the OPRA contract between the city and the Actons on the Wesener Building has been satisfied but for the lack of job creation, which had initially been promised in the agreement.
Early in 2021, the city agreed to allow the continuation of the OPRA contract so the Actons would have extra time to fill the jobs necessary to meet the criteria of the contract. COVID-19 was a major factor in allowing the extra time – and was still a factor in November as discussed by council members, mostly agreeing that filling job positions during the pandemic economy is a daunting process.
Acton assured council that new lessee, Kim Oderkirk of Connections2Careers, had already created four jobs since the first of October and that more positions would be filled. Okekirk was in attendance for the Monday meeting. As Executive Vice President of Connections2Careers, Oderkirk has been working to bring more jobs to Owosso. Connections2Careers is a nonprofit, offering tools and training to individuals seeking to own and operate businesses.
Council member Rob Teich shared he understood both a personal and business side in the decision to revoke or not revoke. He offered it was a “bit of a miracle” that Actons had ever showed interest in the Wesener to begin with – and following a full reconstruction – the city now had a beautiful structure featured in the downtown area.
Council member Janae Fear admitted to struggle with the decision since a contract had been reached and she did not want to set a precedence for other building owners with tax breaks, believing consistency from the city was critical.
The council agreed to continue with the Wesener tax breaks as long as a review on all of the criteria, particularly the creation of jobs, took place during the annual abatement review process.
The next city council meeting is set for Monday, Dec. 20.