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Ann Arbor SPARK Receives 2023 Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award from the International Economic Development Council

September 26, 2023 Press Releases
IEDC website award badge

Ann Arbor SPARK has been honored with the 2023 Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). This accolade is a recognition of SPARK’s outstanding efforts in the Internet & New Media category. The award presentation took place during the IEDC 2023 Annual Conference, where SPARK was commended for its exceptional work in transforming economic development through its redesigned website.

In September 2022, SPARK unveiled its redesigned website, strategically crafted to elevate user experiences and make a lasting impression on visitors. The enhancements encompassed improved navigation, enhanced search functionality, and content optimized for search engines — all aimed at providing a more user-friendly experience.

“Our goal was to create a website that not only informs but also engages and welcomes visitors. A great user experience is paramount because it’s often the first point of contact people have with Ann Arbor SPARK. We wanted to make sure it was a positive and memorable one,” said Jenn Hayman, senior vice president of marketing, communications, and events at SPARK, highlighting the significance of a user-centric approach.

The project led to a significant boost in the new website’s organic search traffic, surpassing typical SEO trends for newly launched sites. Within the first month, Ann Arbor SPARK’s organic traffic increased by 26 percent, a remarkable achievement considering that organic search traffic usually takes six to 12 months to improve. After eight months, organic search traffic experienced a remarkable growth of over 40 percent. Additionally, once users arrived at the site, they spent an average of 38 percent more time there. These improvements have resulted in a greater impact for SPARK, with insightful blogs and resourceful pages effectively informing and engaging their target audience.

Laura Berarducci, senior director of development & communications at Ann Arbor SPARK, spearheaded the website redesign and worked closely with 3.7 Designs, a local website design company, to execute the project. She noted, “Selecting 3.7 Designs as our partner to bring the new website to life was a decision rooted in local expertise and community trust. They were great to work with, and their commitment to our vision played a crucial role in our website’s success.”

“In the last ten years, 3.7 Designs has actively engaged with SPARK, benefiting from their services in various ways. This involvement has encompassed aiding SPARK clients with their web and marketing requirements, receiving a grant, providing consultation to an SEO-related startup, and actively participating in local networking and educational events,” stated Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs owner. “Drawing from our extensive experience collaborating with SPARK and conducting thorough design research, we aimed to effectively convey the organization’s nuances, deliver an effortless user experience, and highlight their contributions to the community.”

Nathan Ohle, IEDC president and CEO, lauded Ann Arbor SPARK’s efforts, saying, “Ann Arbor SPARK has raised the bar for excellence in economic development with its redesigned website. This award is a testament to SPARK’s dedication to its residents and serves as a great example of how economic development can help transform a community for the better. It is IEDC’s honor and privilege to present Ann Arbor SPARK with this award and recognize its leadership and innovation in the field of economic development.”

The IEDC annually identifies outstanding economic development organizations, government entities, initiatives, and programs that consistently demonstrate exemplary performance in the economic development profession. Ann Arbor SPARK’s recognition underscores its pivotal role in revitalizing communities and advancing the practice of economic development, making it a deserving recipient of the 2023 Excellence in Economic Development Silver Award.

About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,300 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities by creating, retaining, and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth, and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members engage in the full range of economic development practices. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in various settings, including local, state, provincial, and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities, and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. Learn more at