Ann Arbor Spark celebrates economic progress at annual meeting

ANN ARBOR—Ann Arbor Spark hosted its 2019 Annual Meeting at Eastern Michigan University highlighting results from the organization’s work in 2018.

The event also presented awards to three Spark businesses driving growth in the region, welcomed guest speaker Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and featured a keynote address by Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and the Adeline M. and Alfred I. Johnson Chair in Urban and Metropolitan Policy.

“The Ann Arbor Spark annual meeting is an opportunity to recap our real results, for real people, in real places including the startups we have helped grow, and the new jobs plus investments that have occurred in our region as a result of our collaborative partnership between the private, public and academic sectors,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor Spark. “We value this time to connect with the hundreds of community and business leaders who are vested in our mission to grow regional economic prosperity.”

Ann Arbor Spark’s work in 2018 continued to boost the region’s economy through business growth and success:

  • Business attraction and retention of 31 successful projects, resulting in $147 million in new investment commitments, 1,280 announced jobs, and 1,149 retained jobs.
  • Assistance to 224 startups that currently employ 748 full-time employees and incubation of 68 startup companies

New for this year’s annual meeting, Ann Arbor Spark introduced the Legends Award, honoring Duo Security for its incredible success, including the 2018 $2.35 billion acquisition by Cisco. David Parsigian, Ann Arbor Spark board chair, presented the award, emphasizing: “Duo’s commitment to our region, combined with its ability to attract talented job seekers who want to live and work here, has led to Cisco signaling its commitment to continuing to grow here in Ann Arbor.”

Two other awards were presented as well. Groundspeed Analytics received the Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year award for its growth since its participation in Entrepreneur Boot Camp in 2015. Last year, Groundspeed closed a $30 million Series B round of funding and has plans to continue growing its team of 75 employees.

KLA, which announced its selection of Ann Arbor for a new research and development center in 2018, received the Project of the Year award. This new office is expected to result in $70 million in investment in the region and the creation of up to 500 jobs. KLA, headquartered in Milpitas, Calif., is currently occupying Ann Arbor Spark’s “soft landing” space at the Spark Central Innovation Center while it works on building a permanent location in the region.

Whitmer presented her economic priorities for the State of Michigan budget—roads and infrastructure, drinking water, and skills training. She concluded her remarks by saying, “When we solve these fundamentals, we make Michigan a more competitive state where our kids stay, where our families thrive, and where businesses continue to invest.”

Keynote speaker Amy Liu began by acknowledging that Ann Arbor Spark’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and economic development is unique among the organization’s peers across the country.

In her presentation, Liu laid out a new framework for economic growth built on three primary strategies. Included were nurturing a dynamic business ecosystem, building a skilled workforce, which includes grooming existing talent, and creating connected places where jobs and opportunities are available, throughout a well-designed economic district, ideally connected by transit. Liu concluded by encouraging the community to focus on developing technical talent, sustainable placemaking, a globally connected infrastructure, and exhibiting the presence and support of a diverse population.

Ann Arbor Spark is the economic development agency for Washtenaw and Livingston counties. More at

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