What is Ann Arbor SPARK?
Ann Arbor SPARK is a non-profit economic development organization committed to growing the Ann Arbor region’s economy. Headquartered in downtown Ann Arbor and serving Washtenaw and Livingston counties, we advance the region by encouraging and supporting business acceleration, attraction, and retention at every stage of the business development cycle — from startups to large organizations.
What is economic development?
Economic development is the result of sustained, concerted, and collaborative efforts that advance the standard of living and economic health of a targeted geographic area.
According to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, economic development creates the conditions for improved quality of life by expanding the capacity of individuals, firms, and communities to maximize the use of their talents and skills to support the innovation that drives economic growth.
With whom does SPARK collaborate?
One of SPARK’s primary objectives is to bring together private and public partners, like the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Michigan Works! Association, city and municipal partners, University of Michigan, and others to support the growth of companies and the creation of jobs in Washtenaw and Livingston counties.
We also partner with other regional economic development organizations, such as Destination Detroit, on opportunities that will impact all of southeast Michigan.
Can you describe what SPARK does to promote economic development?
Ann Arbor SPARK promotes Washtenaw and Livingston counties as a destination for innovation. We do this by amplifying the stories of entrepreneurial and business achievements from the region. Additionally, to support a culture of success, we offer entrepreneurs and businesses a variety of services that can help companies solve specific business challenges that may impede an organization’s growth. From talent attraction and retention to business incubation and acceleration, we work with range a of public and private partners at the state and local level to provide these services.
How does SPARK support entrepreneurs?
Ann Arbor SPARK operates two business incubators in Washtenaw County: The SPARK Central Innovation Center in downtown Ann Arbor and the SPARK East Innovation Center in downtown Ypsilanti. These business incubators provide affordable office space and business support services to startups. Additional services include connecting entrepreneurs to mentors and business consultants to help with marketing, financial planning, investor pitch preparation, and access to other expertise that would otherwise be unaffordable to these startup businesses.
LDFA funding goes towards our business incubators. Learn more about the LDFA.
How does Ann Arbor SPARK work with state and local incentives?
State and local incentives are tools that SPARK can use to attract a business to this region, or convince a company to stay here and expand versus choosing another destination for growth. We help companies applying for these programs through project management and process facilitation.
Where can I find a list of companies that received funds through the COVID-related small business grants Ann Arbor SPARK administered in 2020 & 2021?
Each county identified its local stakeholders when convening a review committee. The links below are specific to Washtenaw and Livingston counties.
How does SPARK work with Livingston County?
SPARK has a contractual partnership with the Economic Development Council of Livingston County (EDCLC) to provide economic development services to businesses in the area. The EDCLC Board oversees the work that Ann Arbor SPARK does to advance the economy of Livingston County. This partnership leverages project-based and strategic economic development services in the region through proactive outreach to local businesses in Livingston County that result in value-added services and connections.
You can read more about our work in Livingston County through our Livingston portal, which includes information on: Livingston County Data and Metrics, a map of successful projects, Livingston County Entrepreneurial Services, Livingston Economic Action Plan, and other information.
Where can I find Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual reports?
All of Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual reports can be found online here.
How does Ann Arbor SPARK report results to Washtenaw County for the general fund contribution?
Ann Arbor SPARK provides a full-funding report to the Office of Community and Economic Development at Washtenaw County. That office includes SPARK metrics in its report to the Board of County Commissioners, which is also a part of the board’s annual budget preparation process.
The results included in the report include leveraged funding, jobs created and retained through the funding, and the location of the project.
The most recent report is available here.