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Posted on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 9:18 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township approves tax abatements for Sensitile for 2nd consecutive year

By Tom Perkins


A line of Sensitile's material.

Photo courtesy of Sensitile

In May of 2011, Sensitile Systems' co-owner Vanika Lath said the Ypsilanti Township-based company was growing by 110 percent annually. At that time, Sensitile was seeking a tax abatement on its real property from Ypsilanti Township.

Less than a year passed before Sensitile grew enough to apply for another tax abatement in early 2013, and it was recently approved by the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees.

This time the abatement is worth $293,000 over a 12-year period, while the 2012 abatement provided $222,000 in tax relief over a 12-year period.

Ypsilanti Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo noted that Sensitile moved to Ypsilanti Township from Detroit three years ago and continues to expand here. She said she expects the company to outgrow its 33,000-square-foot building at 1735 Holmes Road.

When that time comes, township officials are hopeful Sensitile will stay in Ypsilanti Township, Stumbo said.


Sensitile's Holmes Road facility

Tom Perkins | For

“We hope the small tax abatements they have received develop a positive relationship and they will continue to invest and create jobs in Ypsilanti Township,” she said. “Corporations get tax abatements worth billions of dollars in incentives from federal, state, county and local government, and it would be nice if small business could have the same opportunity. After all they are the backbone of America."

She also highlighted that Sensitile took a once abandoned building and brought it back to use.

“That means employees eating, buying groceries, getting their gas, etc. here, and that is an impact that is not easy to measure, but one that would be felt and seen if they were to leave our community,” Stumbo said.

Sensitile uses special glass and acrylic pieces that are layered together with different iridescent sheets inside. Depending on the angle or intensity of lighting, it appears as if the material is twinkling, shimmering or flashing.

The reflection and refraction of the light on the surfaces, Lath explained, “enhances the beauty of interior space, usually as an accent material.”

The panels are popular in modern restaurants, hotels, hospitals, malls, bars, stores, public spaces and a range of other locations. The material is on floors, walls, tabletops, doors, lamps and more.

The company was founded by Abhinand Lath, who developed the concept for the material while attending the University of Michigan. Sensitile’s work can now be found from Dubai to North Carolina to Hong Kong.

Township records show the company is seeking an abatement on high-tech equipment it's purchasing, though Lath did not provide specifics to when asked about the purchases.

The abatements are typically given in return for the promise of job creation. Lath also did not answer questions about employment levels, but the application for the latest abatement indicated that it would help create 10 jobs.

Lath told the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees that employee numbers fluctuate depending on contracts they receive for work and there is no exact figure they could provide on how many jobs they would create with the help of the abatement.

The company has 32 employees but averages around 25, Lath told the board. In April 2012, the company had 20 employees.

The board unanimously approved the abatement and Township Clerk Karen Lovejoy-Roe called Sensitile a success story.

“They are a small business, so the small tax abatement goes along way to help them continue to invest in new product lines and to employ more employees,” she said. “Supporting businesses that begin from research at our higher educational institutions in the county is a good thing for the entire county and in this case, Ypsilanti Township."



Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

Personally, I'm sick and tired of companies getting away with not paying taxes! The township just got a millage passed BY ITS RESIDENTS to raise property taxes to cover more police, fire, parks, etc. coverage and maintenance. I wonder if it would have passed if this article were printed BEFORE the voting took place. I'm also curious as to how many of this company's employees actually live in the township and/or shop and spend their money here. Hmmmmm!

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

Those who can most afford to pay their fair share of taxes get tax breaks. While those who can least afford to pay get no such corporate welfare. Thanks Govner Snyder.

no flamers!

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

Gov. Snyder reduced state tax breaks by 90% precisely b/c he wanted to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. This tax break was provided by local authorities (all Ds) for a local tax. 0-2.

1982 Brew Crew

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

Really squimish about government picking winners and losers via tax abatement allocations. The same arguments about this company could be made about most other mid-sized businesses. I can maybe see a one-time incentive to move to the area; I can't see continuing tax breaks after the business is here.

Steve Bean

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

Illogical rationalizations that don't explain why every other small business isn't given an abatement.


Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Or why millages increases were just approved by voters.

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.



Tue, Aug 13, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

If I'm reading this right, it works out to a tax cut of about $20,000 to $30,000 a year. If that kind of money is enough to keep the abyss from staring back at this business, where does the line start for tickets?