Ann Arbor SPARK says local companies it assisted in 2010 plan to add 1,425 jobs

Posted on May 12, 2011

Economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK said that 42 of the companies it assisted in 2010 announced plans to eventually add 1,425 jobs, according the group’s 2010 annual report, which was released Monday night at Ann Arbor City Council’s meeting.

The group also released details of its 2011 budget, saying that its core operating budget is $3.07 million. That figure includes $1.12 million from the Local Development Finance Authority — which is also contributing $225,000 for a pool of microloan funds provided to local startup companies. The LDFA is a tax-capture authority that accumulates property tax dollars from downtown development districts in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

The budget includes $250,000 from Washtenaw County, $75,000 from the city of Ann Arborand $69,400 from other local municipalities. SPARK said it gets another $1.55 million from other sources, including $350,000 from the University of Michigan and financing from private businesses and nonprofits.

The group separates its investment funds from its core operating budget because the investment dollars are managed on behalf of other groups, including the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

SPARK said that it made 12 early-stage equity investments in 2010, including three in Ann Arbor companies totaling $750,000. It awarded 30 microloans, including 18 in Ann Arbor totaling $596,000.

The public-private partnership — formed in 2005 as an outgrowth of an idea that started with the U-M Technology Transfer Office Advisory Board — also manages three business incubators that served 60 startup tenants in 2010, according to the report. Those tenants, including 17 at the SPARK Central incubator on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, pay low rental fees in exchange for operating space.

The report’s release comes during a period of leadership transition for SPARK, which lost its first CEO, Michael Finney, in December when he agreed to become the new CEO of the MEDC under Gov. Rick Snyder, SPARK’s co-founder.

Paul Krutko, SPARK’s new CEO, told City Council that the city’s financial commitment sustains the group’s activities.

Krutko, in a recent interview with, said that building and diversifying SPARK’s funding base would be one of his top priorities.

“The key factor in our future economic success in Ann Arbor will be the fact that we have a vital, vibrant, attractive community,” Krutko said, encouraging city officials to “keep this engine flowing” and continue to invest in economic development.

In its annual report, SPARK says that 42 local companies in 2010 announced plans to create 1,425 new full-time jobs tied to expansions worth $151 million.

Whether those companies will eventually add those jobs is unclear, though. Many times, companies fail to meet ambitious growth targets, and the number of jobs actually created turns out to be much lower.

Among the local companies SPARK claimed as successes in 2010 were:Masco Cabinetry, which moved its division headquarters and a few hundred jobs to Ann Arbor Township; Adaptive Materials, a fuel cell firm that has added about a dozen jobs in Pittsfield Township since being acquired at the end of the year; JAC Products, an auto supplier that has returned to financial strength in Saline after struggling during the economic crisis; NanoBio, which has attracted millions in venture capital and licensing deals and expanded its Ann Arbor laboratories in 2010; and Saline Lectronics, which has added dozens of jobs to its Saline manufacturing facility in recent months.

SPARK also said a key part of its activities is communicating regularly with 254 local companies to find out whether they need assistance to expand, survive or stay in this area.

By Ryan J. Stanton,