Ann Arbor SPARK is a premier economic development organization driving growth in the major entrepreneurial hub of Ann Arbor, Mich. SPARK was launched in May, 2005 as a Partnership between University of Michigan, Washtenaw County, local communities, and private companies with the goal of igniting innovation in Ann Arbor, doubling the number of tech companies and tripling the number of tech workers in Washtenaw County. SPARK advances the economy of the Ann Arbor region by establishing the area as a desired place for business expansion and location by identifying and meeting the needs of business at every stage, from those that are established to those working to successfully commercialize innovations.
The organization focuses on three main programmatic activities: Acceleration: Create long term regional prosperity by accelerating the growth of start-ups and early stage companies through investment and by support through offering direct and consultant services. Talent: Maximize the retention, development and attraction of knowledge workers though convening and collaborating with partner organizations and direct program delivery to meet the needs of early stage and mature companies we serve. Growth: Maximize job creation and capital investment growing the region’s GDP through the retention and expansion of mature driving industry companies and the targeted attraction domestically and internationally of similar companies that fit the region’s identified clusters. In 2016, SPARK initiated 28 company growth projects creating $159 million in new investment commitments and 1,098 new announced jobs. Additionally, it assisted 255 innovation start-ups, 182 of those companies received intensive services.
The DTE Energy Foundation’s support helps SPARK’s Business Development team increase the economic development of this region by meeting the needs of businesses as they grow, find new talent, and consider new location decisions. Business Development Services are anchored by three baseline economic development activities, which lay the ground work for wealth and job creation in Economically Challenged Communities, as well as SPARK’s export, “soft landing” and talent work. SPARK partners with local municipalities in order to support and enhance their economic development efforts, which allows them access to national site selectors and international exposure, the benefit of regional marketing efforts, and superior project management support. Additionally, SPARK encourages local business community partners to be involved in the strategic direction of the organization through our Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Operating Committees. DTE Energy employees have served as board and/or committee members, and officers of the organization since its founding.