From the Chair
As we enter Ann Arbor SPARK’s eighteenth year, the public, private, and academic partnership started in 2005 continues to fuel our region’s economic development. Our unique ability to combine participation and funding from these three sectors has enabled SPARK to support a broad range of companies and opportunities in our region. We continue to support the development of a rich ecosystem for technology startups to accelerate their growth, we help our region’s existing mature companies to thrive, and we work to attract new investment from companies elsewhere in the nation and worldwide. SPARK assists all of these companies to capitalize on the collection of assets that make the Ann Arbor region a beacon of world-class research and innovation.
In 2022, through our entrepreneurial services, business development, marketing and communications, and capital teams, SPARK has once again achieved results well beyond expectations for a region of our size. These results build on the core focus areas defined in our strategic plan: acceleration, growth, talent, and community. Through direct support and intervention, we accelerate the growth of startups and early-stage tech companies. To sow growth, we seed new companies so they grow and take root here. With our partners, we maximize the retention, development, and attraction of a talented workforce. Across our region, we work with public, private, and academic partners to enrich the local community to better enable smart growth.
SPARK’s board of directors continues to encourage innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in overseeing our internal efforts as well. The original ethos behind our founding was to fill gaps and provide convening and leadership in response to opportunities and challenges that the region faces. We continue to build on that approach as we adapt to the evolving environment. An example of this approach is the successful development of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) series and the associated SPARK educational programming that educates early-stage companies to appreciate the importance of a diverse workforce to their future growth and gives them the tools to achieve that diversity.
The Ann Arbor region’s economy is vibrant and growing, continuing to build a strong foundation. The region’s successes in forging partnerships and driving growth demonstrate a resounding strength even amidst uncertainty. We are confident that our economy will continue to thrive, propelled by this resilience and determination.
To those partners who have provided the resources that enable this important work to go forward, we appreciate and value your support in helping us build a better tomorrow. Your dedication has left a lasting impact on our communities. To those of you who have yet to join this effort, we encourage you to do so and welcome your involvement financially and through engagement with our projects, programs, and committees.
With your help, we can move forward with hope and conviction, knowing the path ahead is one of promise and progress.
CHAIR OF THE BOARD, ANN ARBOR SPARK
From the President and CEO
As the nation’s economy continues to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic and inflationary pressures, the Ann Arbor region demonstrates its resilience as startup activity continues apace, mature companies grow, and companies located outside our region invest and create jobs here. This report highlights SPARK’s role in these areas.
We are proud to have the opportunity to share the stories of our work with you. In the past year, we have attracted investments from growing high-tech firms, as well as software, advanced manufacturing, and life sciences startups. Our growth as a center for research and development across a broad array of technologies is one emerging trend that we are pleased to report on.
At last year’s Annual Meeting, we shared our strategic plan that centers on the four pillars of acceleration, growth, talent, and community. Our continued focus on this plan has positioned our region as a thriving hub for new ideas, products, and technologies, making it a prime living lab for innovation. Our public sector partners provide opportunities to test innovative products and services in real-world settings, validating them for adoption across the nation and the world. This type of innovation helps drive economic growth and create a more sustainable, vibrant, and connected city.
Our deep partnership with the University of Michigan continues to position our community as an attractive location for new investment and clean jobs based on intellectual capital unsurpassed in the United States. This creates a virtuous cycle generating high-paying jobs and tax revenues that provide the resources for our municipalities and county to invest in facilities and programs that underpin our exceptional quality of life, which has been recognized repeatedly in national ratings. We are a model for how private, public, and academic institutions can collaborate to form lasting social and economic gains.
Ann Arbor continues to be globally recognized as a hub of innovation, boasting a thriving ecosystem across diverse industries. Our ongoing work is made possible by the unwavering support of our stakeholders and partners. We are grateful for your financial support and organizational commitment, without which our work would not be possible. Together, we celebrate our collective successes and strive toward an even brighter future. Thank you for your continued support.
PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ANN ARBOR SPARK
Since 2011, SPARK has achieved remarkable successes in both attracting and retaining businesses in Washtenaw County. We have successfully completed 335 company growth projects, resulting in over $121 billion in new investment commitments. Furthermore, SPARK’s efforts have led to the creation of over 9,000 new jobs and the retention of over 16,000 jobs. These impressive figures demonstrate SPARK’s commitment to fostering economic growth and development within the communities it serves.
Part of what makes our services possible is funding provided by The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone LDFA, which provides capital to commercialize technologies developed locally. LDFA grows these companies in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, funded by the State of Michigan.
An Ann Arbor SPARK initiative, a2TECH360 promotes the Ann Arbor region as an area of innovation. Offering more than a week of tech-related events, it creates connections between entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, job seekers, and the general public to generate discussion, ideas, and new opportunities.
Our Tech Homecoming event connects talented professionals with Ann Arbor and its vibrant tech ecosystem, which has produced hundreds of startups and billions in enterprise value in the past five years.
Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM), a coalition in southeast MI, including Ann Arbor SPARK, won a federal award under the Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) program in the amount of $52M to create the GEM program. SPARK will be administering the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) component of the program that will catalog the leadership talent in our region and fund placements of those individuals with eligible mobility startups similar to the program we run in Ann Arbor.
Automated Street Sweeper, part of the Transatlantic Autonomous Driving Alliance (TADA), is a group that seeks to create a network connecting U.S. and German companies to develop autonomous vehicle technologies. Ann Arbor SPARK worked with AMZ Sachsen from Saxony, Germany to develop and test an autonomous street sweeper. Other partners include Ann Arbor-based New Eagle, the American Center for Mobility, and FAUN Viatec from Germany. Once the sweeper is tested and validated, Ann Arbor SPARK will work with the local municipality to pilot its use.
AlertWatch is a healthcare technology company that develops software solutions to enhance patient safety and clinical efficiency in hospitals. The company’s platform, AlertWatch:OR, is an anesthesia patient safety system that provides real-time patient monitoring and alerts to clinicians during surgery, improving patient outcomes and reducing the risk of adverse events. Through its partnership with Ann Arbor SPARK, AlertWatch has been able to grow and develop its technology platform, expand its customer base, and increase its visibility in the healthcare industry.
R&D company LuxWall, a building materials innovator, set up their facility in Ypsilanti Township to be close to talent. Their patent pending solution Net Zero Glass, is designed to help property owners significantly reduce carbon emissions in new and existing buildings. Ann Arbor SPARK and the Detroit Regional Partnership worked closely with the company to find space in Ypsilanti Township. The Innovate Ypsi grant recipient signed a five-year lease resulting in a local investment of $2.9 million and creating 45 new jobs.
Sartorius, an international life science support company with operations across the globe, selected Ann Arbor to serve as the hub of their North American R&D operations. Their brand new 130,000 square foot facility in the City of Ann Arbor — a $60+ million project — will add 160 new people. The company develops products for life science research and the biopharmaceutical industry, including contributing to the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI) announced an expansion of their R&D automotive campus in Superior Township by adding an active safety design and validation center. This $51 million investment adds new technical expertise to their North American research center.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT SERVICES
in both Washtenaw & Livingston counties
Created by Toyota, The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), provides global-best workforce development to build the future of the modern manufacturing industry. In the fall of 2022, a new chapter launched with Washtenaw Community College as the lead training partner. Ann Arbor SPARK serves as the administrator and works closely with the regional hub organization, the Workforce Intelligence Network. The chapter’s inaugural cohort of the Advanced Manufacturing Technician training program at WCC kicks off in the fall of 2023 and will equip students with the skills required for the rapidly evolving manufacturing industry while simultaneously providing a debt-free path to an Associate degree.
In the fall of 2021, Ann Arbor SPARK launched a new, free educational series, Accelerating Company Excellence (ACE). ACE is designed to help small business owners learn new skills and reinforce best business practices by learning from subject matter experts in finance, sales, marketing, and accounting. ACE sponsored 21 events in 2022, providing in-person networking where business owners can share tips, challenges, and opportunities with each other.
Ann Arbor SPARK continues to make dedicated efforts to engage with the community through a variety of channels. In 2022, Ann Arbor SPARK launched a new website to enhance the user experience and align with the strategic plan. To reach a wider audience, we have hosted both virtual and in-person events, and have continued to create and publish content across multiple platforms, promoting the region on a global scale. In addition, we have expanded our social media audience and built strong relationships within the region and beyond. Our focus has been on creating a dynamic and engaging presence that resonates with our community, and we remain committed to evolving and adapting our approach to better serve our audience’s needs.
THANKS TO THE LDFA, Ann Arbor SPARK’s marketing team provides direct support to startups. These services (which would normally be cost-prohibitive to early-stage companies) include consulting on marketing strategy, product positioning and targeting, website development, social media strategy, public relations, collateral development, and more. In 2022, the dedicated entrepreneurial marketing team delivered 200+ engagements for 33 of the startup companies working with SPARK.
The Michigan STEM Forward program matches students attending Michigan colleges and universities, and Michigan residents attending out-of-state institutions, with internship opportunities at the state’s leading innovative companies. Financial assistance for qualifying companies is available.
Ann Arbor SPARK is immensely grateful for the opportunity to showcase the effectiveness of the MI STEM Forward internship approach and its impact on the State’s workforce. Our team is thrilled with the results of the program and looks forward to the State’s plans to continue the implementation of this initiative with their own staff and resources. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with the program, and are confident that its impact will be felt for years to come.
To date, StabiLux Biosciences has hosted 17 MI STEM Forward interns. We went on to hire six of them between our two locations at Michigan Technological University in Houghton and MI-HQ in Ann Arbor. The new hires are a great addition to the company and it’s a joy to see them apply what they learned in the classroom and see the science in action.”
CEO, StabiLux Biosciences
Pop Daddy Snacks, a family-owned business that specializes in making all-natural popcorn, started in a small bakery in Ypsilanti, MI in 2002. In 2015, the company moved to a larger location in Whitmore Lake, MI, where they now pop, season, and distribute over 30 items out of 14,500 square feet. Today, you can find their products in more than 4,000 retail locations in the U.S. and over 2,000 locations throughout Canada. Pop Daddy Snacks is committed to using only the highest quality ingredients and making their popcorn in small batches to ensure maximum freshness and flavor.
In January 2022, Natalie and Todd Buckley of Wallflower Mercantile, a home goods boutique, outgrew their 2021 opening space in downtown Brighton, MI. They decided to do a new buildout for their permanent location right across the street. It nearly doubled in size, and opened just in time for the holiday rush. They remain optimistic as their store collections have evolved to include an assortment of gift cards designed by local artists, t-shirts lending a nod to Brighton’s merchants of days gone by, and aspirational gifts.
Total Security Solutions (TSS), a leading manufacturer and installer of bulletproof barriers and other security solutions, was founded in 2004. The company quickly established itself as a trusted provider of bullet-resistant glass, doors, and framing systems, designed to provide maximum protection against ballistic threats. In 2022, it manufactured its 25,000th ballistic system, a significant milestone and testament to their commitment to quality and innovation. With a focus on customer satisfaction and a team of experienced professionals, TSS continues to be a leader in the security industry.
Founded in 1955, Flexible Metal is a leading manufacturer of flexible metal hose assemblies and expansion joints. The company has since established a reputation for producing high-quality products that meet the needs of customers across various industries. In 2010, they purchased Metaldyne Tubular Products in Hamburg, MI. This acquisition allowed it to increase manufacturing capabilities and expand its offerings. Today, Flexible Metal remains committed to providing the highest level of customer service and innovative solutions to meet the unique needs of each client.
ACCELERATING STARTUP GROWTH
Entrepreneurs located at SPARK East achieved significant milestones this year, ranging from MVP development and new product launches to growth that enabled three clients to successfully graduate the incubator. In addition, Ypsilanti-based entrepreneurs raised more than $2.5 million in capital across seven startups in 2022.
SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESS
Working closely with Ypsilanti-based community partners, SPARK is administering the Advance Your Business grant program funded by Washtenaw County to help COVID-impacted small businesses. In the 2022/23 pilot year, 20 recipients will receive program services — including marketing, accounting, law services and business coaching as well as a $5000 direct grant to support their business.
YOUTH STEM OUTREACH
Partnering with local organizations including EMU Invent, Big Brothers Big Sisters, EMU Digital Divas, SummerWorks, and EMU Bright Futures, the team at SPARK East engaged more than 1,000 youth in Ypsilanti with educational and career development initiatives.
The SPARK EAST Innovation Center is a critical hub for economic development and community empowerment in Ypsilanti. In recent years, the center expanded its service offerings to do even more to support local small businesses and underserved communities. In fact, the center serves a higher population of historically underserved individuals and communities than the national average. We accomplish this by providing more resources and support to entrepreneurs, such as uniquely designed mentorship programs and access to funding opportunities. Additionally, the center has partnered with local organizations to provide training and development opportunities for small business owners, helping them to grow and thrive in a competitive marketplace.
A.R. Brouwer Company
Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors
Brown & Brown
Butzel Long Attorneys and Counselors
Chelsea State Bank
Consumers Energy Foundation
Domino's Farms Corporation
Fifth Third Bank
Granger Construction Company
Hagerty Insurance Agency
Huntington Technology Finance
Menlo Innovations LLC
Old National Bank
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 Brighton
City of Chelsea
City of Dexter
City of Saline
City of Ypsilanti
EDC of Livingston County
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Michigan Works! Southeast