Copyright 2024 SPARK

Ann Arbor SPARK Celebrates 20 Years of Innovation and Progress at Its Annual Meeting and Economic Forum

Annual Meeting 2024

Ann Arbor SPARK held its Annual Meeting and Economic Forum today, marking a significant milestone of two decades of fostering regional economic development. The event gathered nearly 400 industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and community stakeholders to celebrate the accomplishments of 2023 and reflect on SPARK’s enduring impact.

A standout highlight of the program was a panel discussion featuring former SPARK board chairs. The panel, moderated by Kelly Sexton, the University of Michigan’s Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships and Economic Impact, included Steven Forrest, University of Michigan professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Tim Marshall, president and CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor; Rick Snyder, former Michigan Governor and CEO of SensCy; and Cynthia Wilbanks, senior advisor at the Peterson Rudgers Group and former University of Michigan vice president for government relations. These distinguished individuals shared their perspectives on SPARK’s impact since its founding, imparted lessons they’ve learned, and offered advice for the organization’s future leadership.

David Ruud, DTE CFO and board chair of SPARK, presented an overview of the organization’s 2023 successes. His presentation focused on advancements in entrepreneurship, capital investment, marketing, and business development.

The forum also celebrated seven Economic Impact awardees: KLA, ZOLLER, Toyota Motor North America, Google, May Mobility, Hyundai, and Thai Summit America. These companies significantly contributed to the region’s prosperity through job creation and investments over the past twenty years.

Additionally, Culturewell was named the Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year for its rapid growth and vital role in advancing scientific research and development.

David Wilhoit, president and CEO of Wacker Chemical Corporation, received the Volunteer of the Year award for his strategic guidance and leadership at SPARK, which have been crucial in promoting economic growth in Ann Arbor.

“Today’s gathering was not just a celebration of achievements but also a reaffirmation of SPARK’s vital role in our community. Over the last twenty years, we have seen remarkable transformations driven by collaboration and innovation right here in our region,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “With the support of our community leaders and partners, we’ve driven growth and prosperity. Reflecting on these successes reminds us of the importance of continuing to advance initiatives that create opportunities and foster innovation for everyone in our community.”

Ann Arbor SPARK is deeply grateful for the support of this year’s premier-level sponsors, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Comcast Business, and DTE Energy Foundation, along with partner-level sponsor, Toyota.

View the award videos and SPARK’s 2023 Annual Report here.