At its annual meeting, Ann Arbor SPARK honored leading regional businesses and released its annual report as well as announced its new A2Tech360 program. The annual meeting also featured Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual board chair awards as well as a keynote address by The Ralph Wilson, Jr. Foundation president and CEO David O. Egner.
A highlight of the annual meeting was the unveiling of Ann Arbor SPARK’s strategic plan. In this updated plan, the organization’s previous five areas of focus – acceleration, talent, growth, leadership, and planning – were expanded to include communications and engagement. Key activities in these areas of focus were revealed to be funding to support startups and second stage companies, increasing angel activity creating new and supporting existing initiatives to connect employers and job seekers, and building on current marketing and communications efforts to further engage a national and global audience.
“The Ann Arbor SPARK annual meeting convenes thought leaders from so many parts of our community, all who care passionately about our economic prosperity,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “From our 15 year SmartZone extension, awarded by the State of Michigan, to the opening of the American Center for Mobility, to the continued expansion of global brands in our region, 2017 was an exciting year. As always, Ann Arbor SPARK and its partners will continue to focus on the opportunities these successes create for our economy.”
Ann Arbor SPARK’s work in 2017 continued to boost the region’s economy through business growth and success:
- Business attraction and retention of 40 successful projects, resulting in $120 million in new investment commitments and 2050 announced jobs
- Assistance to 217 startups, and incubation of 85 startup companies
Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year SkySpecs is the first and only provider of completely automated wind turbine blade inspections using a drone and highly intuitive software that allows for repeatability, high-quality data, and safer inspections. Ann Arbor SPARK has worked with SkySpecs since its inception, when it participated in Entrepreneur Boot Camp in 2012. The company has previously been a tenant at the SPARK Central Innovation Center, received funding from the Michigan Angel Fund as well as several grants that supported its early legal, business development, and marketing. Last year, SkySpecs raised an impressive $8 million Series B financing round, attracting capital from outside the state as well as in Michigan.
Volunteer of the Year Mandy Grewal, supervisor of Pittsfield Charter Township, is a community volunteer whose work and leadership has significant impact on the Ann Arbor region. In addition to serving on Ann Arbor SPARK’s executive committee, she co-chairs its public sector committee. She also serves on the Southeast Michigan Council of Government’s executive committee and chairs its finance and budget committee. Since beginning work together, Ann Arbor SPARK and Pittsfield Township have collaborated to attract 76 projects resulting in more than $160 million in investment and 4500 new jobs.
The Project of the Year was awarded to three companies whose combined contributions to the region’s economy prove that Ann Arbor is the nation’s epicenter for mobility. In 2017, FordLabs and Lear established innovation offices focused on software and mobility in downtown Ann Arbor. French-based NAVYA chose Saline for its first manufacturing facility for its autonomous bus fleets. It is exciting to see this industry grow in the Ann Arbor region and fitting to recognize these businesses for their vision and leadership.
Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual meeting was made possible through support from sponsors, including premier sponsors Comcast Business and DTE Energy Foundation.