from the chair
Reflecting on the past provides an opportunity to appreciate how the economy in Ann Arbor has evolved and adapted to be one of the most enviable in the state, if not the country.
As recent as 30 years ago, this wasn’t the case. Like most of the Midwest, our economy was heavily based in manufacturing; the businesses and jobs in the Ann Arbor region weren’t diverse. The model wasn’t sustainable, as we’d soon learn.
When the global economy began to lean more heavily toward tech, Ann Arbor was better positioned than most regions to respond. We are home to one of the world’s largest research universities and innovation was already beating at the heart of our community. When manufacturing began to lose prominence, we were able to shift and — in what was becoming a shrinking pond of opportunity — begin to make waves that would extend beyond the city center into our broader region.
Ann Arbor SPARK keeps the tides rising, to the benefit of our economy, our quality of life, and our reputation as a place where businesses and individuals thrive. Without SPARK, that outward momentum wouldn’t have extended as quickly as it has. Ann Arbor SPARK’s work is specific, strategic, and focused on attracting and growing the high tech companies that are the future of economic growth.
The rising tides of opportunity have expanded beyond the city and into our surrounding communities. We see growth and prosperity throughout the broader region. We should all be proud of this growth and confident in the foundation it has created. It’s on this foundation that Ann Arbor SPARK and its partners will continue its work to attract and nurture innovation-based businesses and the jobs those companies create.
David N. Parsigian
CHAIR OF THE BOARD, ANN ARBOR SPARK
from the president and CEO
I have the privilege of experiencing first-hand, every day, Ann Arbor’s vibrant tech ecosystem. Every day, I work at the SPARK Central Innovation Center and get to experience the next-generation entrepreneur growing their business. This experience is invigorating and inspiring, and it’s one that’s easy to take for granted.
Since coming to Ann Arbor seven years ago, I’ve seen the downtown tech corridor mature. Where there were once empty storefronts and offices now are companies like Barracuda and LLamasoft. Every year, startups like Spellbound and Heal Pay graduate our incubator for their own office spaces — those companies are located above a popular local brewpub and BBQ restaurant, respectively.
I’ve seen this growth and maturity expand from the city center out to our neighboring communities. Nostrum Energy graduated from the incubator this year and is now located in Pittsfield Township. Groundspeed continues to grow and has new offices in Ann Arbor Township. Autonomous shuttle company Navya built a production facility in Saline. In the last three years, Pop Daddy has grown from a regional food startup to selling across the U.S. and Canada — growth made possible by an expansion of its facilities in Livingston County.
Our downtown, the heart of our region, is a vibrant, desirable place to both work and play. This economic prosperity radiates out, benefiting the quality of life in our region and the quality of opportunities for job seekers, investors, and business owners. It’s exciting that we are well positioned now and into the future for continued success, and have a team at Ann Arbor SPARK committed to furthering this success for years to come.
PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ANN ARBOR SPARK
a2TECH260 grew exponentially in 2019 — both in terms of events and attendance. New to our week-long series showing the innovation happening in our region was a biotech showcase at MI-HQ in Scio Township, the hackathon, Hack A2, at NETSCOUT located along the State Street corridor, and a design jam hosted at SPARK East. These new partner events, and new locations epitomize the expansion and success of businesses throughout Washtenaw County.
SOCIAL MEDIA VIEWS
in participating companies
INCREASE IN EVENTS
FastTrack Award Recipients
"Tech Trek has been a phenomenal way to get connected with the tech community in our region and recruit talented folks that we can’t find elsewhere."
Since we opened the doors of the SPARK Central Innovation Center 12 years ago, 61 companies have been nurtured to the point of graduation — expanding outside of our walls to an office space that accommodates long-term future growth. This year, Billy, ClariLegal, Dynamo Metrics, IndustryStar Solutions, Nostrum High Performance, and Parrable all graduated from Ann Arbor SPARK’s incubator program. Upon graduation, our entrepreneurial services clients benefit from our business development team’s services including finding a new office and securing incentives to support growth.
One of the region’s most prolific industries, mobility innovations are brought to life and bolstered by support from SmartZone / LDFA funding. SPARK’s activity in this industry last year speaks for itself: Ford chose to pilot its City Insights Platform in Ann Arbor, Honda opened its Mobility Garage here, and May Mobility opened its new headquarters in Pittsfield Township’s Avis Farms. Smart Eye from Sweden, Autaza from Brazil, and !ImportantSafety from Montreal opened offices in Ann Arbor. Founded through our Entrepreneur Boot Camp, Intvo is expanding at the SPARK Central Innovation Center. Early stage mobility companies in the region attracted more than $150 million in investment last year.
In 2019, our Entrepreneurs in Residence assisted 31 startup companies, providing the expert mentoring and real-world advice that help accelerate the growth of new businesses. These industry vets are a vital resource in our tech ecosystem and prove that this region not only has assets to nurture startups but also retains the people who know what it takes to grow a business from scratch.
A sign of a healthy tech ecosystem is the range of participants helping startups unlock their potential. Ann Arbor SPARK works closely with MI-HQ to provide wet lab space, affordable office space, and other assets that help biotech, med tech, and life science companies start and grow here.
FRONT: Margarita Hernandez, Angela Flood, Laura Berarducci, Lindsay Thomas, Komal Doshi, Kirsten Lyman, Charlotte Dillard
MIDDLE: Bill Mayer, Tiyashia Poole, Lisa Bies, Liz Perpich, Vicki Joling, Daniella Cho, Anne Partington, Iqra Javed, Kristine Nash-Wong, Alex West
BACK: Erin Wiley, Mike Flanagan, Nick Joblonski, Phil Santer, Skip Simms, Jenn Queen, Joshua Thompson, Marcia Gebarowski, Jennifer Olmstead, Todd Girdis
Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors
Ann Arbor State Bank
Barracuda Networks, Inc.
Butzel Long Attorneys and Counselors
Consumer’s Energy Foundation
Domino’s Farms Corporation
Fifth Third Bank
Ford Motor Company
GDI Infotech, Inc.
Huntington Technology Finance
IBM Watson Health
IMRA America, Inc.
Mannik & Smith Group
Menlo Innovations LLC
Michigan Office Interiors
MLive Media Group
Old National Bank
Plante Moran, PLLC
Rudolph Libbe Group
University of Michigan Credit Union
Eastern Michigan University
University of Michigan
Washtenaw Community College
Ann Arbor Charter Township
Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority
Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Local Development Finance Authority
City of Ann Arbor
City of Chelsea
City of Dexter
City of Saline
City of Ypsilanti
EDC of Livingston County
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Michigan Works Southeast