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Ann Arbor SPARK reports business growth, results of COVID-related grant activity at Annual Meeting

Ann Arbor SPARK's Annual Meeting at EMU's Student Center prior to the pandemic.
Ann Arbor SPARK's Annual Meeting at EMU's Student Center prior to the pandemic. (Ann Arbor SPARK)

ANN ARBOR – At its annual meeting, Ann Arbor SPARK honored leading regional businesses and released its annual report.

The event featured a fireside chat between John Tuttle, vice chairman and chief commercial officer of the New York Stock Exchange, and David Ruud, senior vice president and chief financial officer of DTE Energy.

Ann Arbor SPARK’s work in 2020 continued to boost the region’s economy through business growth and success as well as address business needs and challenges in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights include:

  • Business attraction and retention of 13 successful projects, resulting in $80 million in new investment commitments and 700 announced jobs.
  • Assistance to 267 startups that employ more than 650 people, and support to 50 startups created last year.
  • Distribution of $16 million in COVID-related grant funding to 2600 business owners.

“When businesses in our community needed support, Ann Arbor SPARK brought together partners who stepped up to quickly deploy local, state, and federal funds. We advocated at all levels of government for these critical resources and created a resource hub online to help businesses with the services and education necessary to sustain operations through an unprecedented time,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK.

“Simultaneously, the SPARK team maintained its activity to help startups and established companies grow and also market our region to businesses and job seekers alike. The economy of our region is more resilient because of SPARK’s efforts, and we are grateful to our private, public, and academic partners for joining us in this important work.”

Entrepreneurial Services Company of the Year, Workit Health had a banner year in 2020, successfully closing a $12 million Series B funding round. Ann Arbor SPARK has supported the company since its inception in 2015, including space at the SPARK Central and SPARK East Innovation Centers, grant funding for marketing, legal, and customer discovery work, as well as hiring interns to extend the team’s capabilities.

Wacker Chemical, the Business Development Project of the Year, broke ground on a new innovation center for its North and Central Americas region. The project will generate $50 million in investment in the community, and the site will house more than 200 scientists, researchers, and professional staff – with growth expected over the next few years.

Wacker Chemical will open the doors to the new facility in 2021.

Legends award winner Cynthia Wilbanks has been involved with Ann Arbor SPARK since its inception in 2005 — a reflection of her long-held commitment to fostering collaboration between the public, private, and academic sectors to advance economic opportunity in Ann Arbor and Michigan.

In her leadership role at the University of Michigan, Cynthia was a champion in looking for ways to maximize the impact the university could have on our regional economy whether through growing startups based on U-M technology, attracting new companies to our region, connecting students and researchers to the jobs those companies create or strategic projects like Mcity and the American Center for Mobility.

Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual meeting was made possible through support from sponsors, including premier sponsors Comcast Business and DTE Energy Foundation.