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Ann Arbor SPARK receives Excellence in Economic Development Award

Honor given by International Economic Development Council

Ann Arbor SPARK's Annual Meeting at EMU's Student Center.
Ann Arbor SPARK's Annual Meeting at EMU's Student Center. (Ann Arbor SPARK)


ANN ARBORAnn Arbor SPARK won a gold category award for its Ann Arbor as a Mobility Living Lab, a project in the Public-Private Partnerships category of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC)'s 2020 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program.

The honor was presented Thursday, Oct. 16 at an awards ceremony during the IEDC Annual Conference.

“Once again, Ann Arbor is recognized as a region that excels in innovation and collaboration,” said Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK president and CEO. “SPARK is uniquely positioned to help bring projects like this to fruition by bringing private and public entities to the table, plus we have the industry expertise to facilitate conversations from multiple perspectives.”

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Thirty-five award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from four countries.

Ann Arbor SPARK works closely with the region’s academic institutions, public officials, and private sector businesses to build an environment that attracts mobility companies and talent to the region.

Ford has partnered with the city of Ann Arbor for its Ford City Insights Platform.
Ford has partnered with the city of Ann Arbor for its Ford City Insights Platform. (Ford Motor Company)

In 2019, one project helped amplify Ann Arbor as a living laboratory for mobility innovation: the new City Insights platform from Ford Motor Company. It was a joint effort to see if a single platform could help city officials explore mobility issues using dynamic metrics such as parking, transit, traffic, safety, and census data. It began as a 90-day pilot to get all stakeholders' goals and data aligned.

The pilot showed promising results with a need for further investment and development. Subsequently, SPARK applied for funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A grant through the state’s PlanetM initiative was awarded and at that time, SPARK took an active role as grant administrator and project manager.

Project Participants

  • Ann Arbor SPARK: Grant Administrator & Project Manager
  • Ford Motor Company / Ford Smart Mobility: Product Development
  • Michigan Economic Development Organization: Grant Funder
  • Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide): Data Provider & Beta Test User
  • City of Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority: Data Provider & Beta Test User
  • University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI): Data Provider
  • University of Michigan Logistics, Transportation, and Parking Services: Data Provider

In October 2019, Ford made the project public during a press conference held at Ford’s Ann Arbor location during which they announced plans to expand into six other cities. The City Insights platform was also showcased by Ford at CES 2020.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity, and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day,” said 2020 IEDC Board Chair and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald. “We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life.”