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Ann Arbor Spark

May 14, 2019

A Decade of Business Acceleration Services in Ypsilanti

While Ann Arbor SPARK is headquartered in downtown Ann Arbor, for more than 10 years it has also operated a business accelerator in the neighboring city of Ypsilanti. This tight-knit college town — home to Eastern Michigan University — offers a vibrant blend of creativity, history, and entrepreneurship. In addition to emerging tech companies like realLingua and Impellia, more and more independently owned restaurants and boutiques hang their shingle here every year.

Demonstrating a continued investment in the community, the SPARK East Innovation Center recently underwent renovations, incorporating updated features and functionality. Now this startup incubator and business accelerator features a larger event space, premier tenant seating, small and large conference rooms, and a kitchenette with collaboration area.

MAJOR MILESTONES

In the past decade, with the support of our many private-public-academic partners, SPARK has facilitated a number of successes throughout eastern Washtenaw County, including:

  • In the past four years, helping fill 88% of vacant space featured during a 2015 tour of available commercial real estate. 
  • Supporting notable expansions in downtown Ypsilanti through the Innovate Ypsi program, including DO:BETTER, TinkerTech, The Back Office Studio, Landline Creative, and White Pines Software.
  • Working with Restaurant Depot to establish a new facility in Ypsilanti Township, investing more than $8 million and estimating 40 new jobs.
  • Helped launch the American Center for Mobility, Michigan’s premiere connected and autonomous vehicle testing facility
  • Received a 15-year expansion of the Ypsilanti SMART Zone
RESOURCES AND FUNDING

Anyone interested in starting or growing a business in Ypsilanti should connect with our team at SPARK East.

SPARK East Resources
Companies that join the SPARK East Innovation Center are eligible to access funding from the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) for marketing, recruiting, legal, and other professional services.

Starting Your Own Business
This half-day workshop presented with the Michigan Small Business Development Center helps anyone interested in opening their own business learn actionable next steps. Topics include marketing, operations, and financing. Scholarships are available thanks to the support of Chemical Bank.

Innovate Ypsi
The Innovate Ypsi incentive program is designed to provide funding to businesses that create jobs and investment in the 48197/48198 zip codes. Projects are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by a review committee, with consideration given to the type of project, number of new employees, capital investment, financial support and impact on the community. Grants and loans range in size from $10,000 to $75,000.

Eastside Microloans
The Eastside Microloan is designed to assist Ypsilanti-based companies to grow their business in Ypsilanti city and township. Some portions of loan repayment may be waived, on a per loan basis, in conjunction with meeting certain milestones that have been deemed to make a significant economic impact. Microloan terms vary on a case by case basis, but typically carry below-market rates and do not exceed $50,000 per company. 

Washtenaw County Gap Manufacturing Fund
The loan fund is a partnership between Center for Empowerment & Economic Development (CEED Lending), Washtenaw County and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The fund was established to assist existing and start-up small businesses in who cannot obtain conventional financing due to lack of capital, no credit, and insufficient collateral. Loans are up to $50,000 and have an interest rate that can be fixed as low as 0%.