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At its annual meeting, Ann Arbor SPARK celebrated 10 years of creating economic opportunity and prosperity in the Ann Arbor region. The event, which featured a keynote by Ann Arbor SPARK co-founder, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, also included Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual business leadership awards and a recap of 2014 results.

Ann Arbor SPARK’s 10 Year Anniversary video highlights the economic progress and positive impact on the Ann Arbor community over the past 10 years.

“Ten years ago, Ann Arbor SPARK’s founding board and executive committee had a vision for this region to be a nationally known center for innovation, vibrant business growth, and world class talent. Those leaders, which represented the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors, convened a remarkable group of volunteers and professionals all committed to working towards making our economy stronger – creating jobs and creating opportunity,” said Tim Marshall, president and CEO of Arbor Bancorp, Inc. and Bank of Ann Arbor, and chair of Ann Arbor SPARK’s board of directors. “The many contributions and hard work that so many people from across the Ann Arbor region have invested to ensure our future success is a model for other communities, and is an example of what collaboration can achieve.”

Ann Arbor SPARK’s work in 2014 in marketing the region, meeting with growing businesses, and providing business acceleration resources to startups positively impacted economic prosperity in the following ways:

  • Business attraction and retention of 30 successful projects, resulting in $238 million in new investment commitments and 1,279 jobs announced in the region
  • Assistance to 253 startups, and incubation of 71 startup companies
  • Awarding of seven microloans and four pre-seed capital investments to emerging businesses

Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual report, details these successes, and other economic successes from the last 10 years.

“It’s remarkable to look back 10 years and see how far we’ve come and how those seeds of economic prosperity planted then are starting to flourish now,” said Ann Arbor SPARK president and CEO Paul Krutko. “The Ann Arbor region benefits from having invested in entrepreneurism years ago: Companies are going from startup to market so much faster today than at that time, thanks to the support from Ann Arbor SPARK, LDFA, and other partners in the ecosystem that’s grown here. For established businesses, having Ann Arbor SPARK as a central hub for critical resources – talent, incentives, site selection – helps them capitalize on growth opportunities more efficiently than ever before.”

Ann Arbor SPARK also presented its business leadership awards, including 2014 Volunteer of the Year, Entrepreneurial Company of the Year and Business Development Project of the Year.

Volunteer of the Year   Albert M. Berriz is co-managing member, chief executive officer, board member and co-owner of McKinley. Berriz serves on Ann Arbor SPARK’s board of directors as well as its development and foreign direct investment committees. He was honored for being a tireless champion for economic growth and community excellence. Of particular note is Berriz’s efforts to revitalize Ann Arbor’s Liberty Street corridor, which in recent years has become home to leading technology companies such as Barracuda Networks and Pillar Technology, as well as retail and dining that is supported by this in-flux of talent in downtown.

Entrepreneurial Company of the Year, Seelio partners with universities and colleges to offer software and services that help students connect the dots between their education and career goals. In 2014, Seelio was acquired by Plattform, which committed to continuing to grow the company in Ann Arbor. Seelio, an incubator client at SPARK Central since 2011, was the inaugural client of SPARK’s expanded space for second-stage companies. In addition to incubator space, Seelio has benefited from SPARK’s business accelerator grants, participation in the internship program, pre-seed funding, and LDFA microloan funding. To date, Seelio has raised more than $1.5 million, and employs more than 20 people.

Business Development Project of the Year Toyota  has consistently grown in Ann Arbor since 2006. During its time in the Ann Arbor region, the company has invested more than $300 million and created 600 new jobs. In 2014, Toyota announced several expansions here, including the consolidation of all of its powertrain operations to its Ann Arbor facility. Additionally, 250 procurement jobs are moving from Erlanger, Kentucky to Toyota’s York Township campus.Ann Arbor SPARK has provided critical support to Toyota throughout its expansions, including securing incentives from state and local partners as well as talent support as Toyota not only relocates workers from other locations to Ann Arbor, but also attracts and recruits employees for the new jobs it is creating.