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Ann Arbor SPARK celebrates region’s economic progress, achievements at annual meeting

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Richard Florida

Richard Florida

At its annual meeting, Ann Arbor SPARK honored leading regional businesses and released its annual report as well as an economic benchmarking report. The annual meeting also featured a keynote address by author and thought leader Richard Florida as well as presentation of Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual FastTrack awards.

“Our annual meeting has become a signature networking event and celebration of our ever evolving and growing economy,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “Ann Arbor rightfully attracts global attention: It’s one of the few places in the world that offer our combination of talent, industry, quality of place, infrastructure, and innovation. Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual meeting is a chance to update the community on how those assets have contributed to economic growth in the last year, and to spotlight the marquee success stories from the last year.”

Ann Arbor SPARK’s work in 2016 continued to boost the region’s economy through business growth and success: 

  • Business attraction and retention of 28 successful projects, resulting in $159 million in new investment commitments and 1098 announced jobs 
  • Assistance to 255 startups, and incubation of 99 startup companies 

Ann Arbor SPARK also presented its annual chair awards:

  • Entrepreneurial Company of the Year RetroSense Therapeutics launched in 2009 to develop optogenetic approaches to vision restoration. In 2016, the first patient was treated with its technology, and the company was acquired by Allergan for $60 million.
  • Volunteer Leader of the Year Ken Fischer is president of the Uni­versity Musical Society (UMS) of the University of Michigan and has been a tireless advocate for the Ann Arbor arts community. Fischer has brought UMS and the city of Ann Arbor global prominence, including through his partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Ann Arbor SPARK on several programs to draw attention to the vibrant arts community while attracting businesses to the Ann Arbor region. 
  • Project of the Year the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run is a 530-plus acre site that will become a national-scale testing, education, and product development facility for future mobility. It is designed to enable safe validation and self-certification of connected and automated vehicle technology and to accelerate the development of voluntary standards. 
  • The Comcast Virtual Business Advisor Award was presented to Ida Abdalkhani, founder and chief catalyzer of Ability to Engage, Inc. She used the Virtual Business Advisor (VBA) assessment to identify growth opportunities as well as opportunities for improve­ment, and took advantage of the resources in the community presented by the VBA to refine her business. 

Ann Arbor SPARK’s annual meeting was made possible through support from sponsors, including premier sponsors Comcast Business and DTE Energy Foundation. Ann Arbor SPARK’s FastTrack awards are sponsored by Yeo & Yeo CPAs & Business Consultants.

About Ann Arbor SPARK

Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit organization, is advancing the region by encouraging and supporting business acceleration, attraction and retention. The organization identifies and meets the needs of business at every stage, from start-ups to large organizations. Ann Arbor SPARK collaborates with business, academic, government, and community investor partners including the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Washtenaw County, Livingston County, the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone (LDFA), Washtenaw County/Michigan Works!, the City of Ann Arbor, Bank of Ann Arbor and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. For more information, please call (734) 761-9317 or visit AnnArborUSA.org.

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