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Posted on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor area's 25 largest companies employ a quarter of the region's workforce

By Ben Freed


The University of Michigan Health System is the area's second-largest employer, behind only the University of Michigan.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

Nearly one quarter of the Ann Arbor area’s total jobs are concentrated in the top 25 employers, according to numbers from Ann Arbor SPARK and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and the Budget.

SPARK’s numbers, as of January 2013, show that the top 25 companies in the region employed 54,802 workers. The most recent report from the DTMB estimated the area’s active workforce at 206,000.

There are no surprises at the top of the list. The University of Michigan and the U-M Health System once again lead the way as Washtenaw County’s largest employers with a combined workforce of 28,143, over half of the top 25’s total.

Michigan’s internal numbers place their employment numbers even higher. The most recent statistics available, from fall 2011, put the total between the two at nearly 44,000.

“We should continue to see overall growth in our system,” senior director of human resources Tim Wood said.

“We have the academic mission, research mission, and patient care mission. Research and patient care is where we see growth year to year because we’re adding continual support there.”

Wood said staffing levels at the university took a hit during the recession in 2008 but have experienced steady growth since 2009.

“We are always hiring even where we have some cost containment going on,” he said.

“Even on the health side there’s definitely a tightening up on hiring but there will still be some positions we’ll be hiring for… About a third of our new hires come from Ann Arbor, another third from the broader Southeast Michigan area, and the last third are from other states and international hires.”


Ann Arbor SPARK lists the area's top 25 employers on its website every year.

The largest private company in the area was next on the list after the two university-related giants. Trinity Health employs 5,304 people at locations across the county including St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor Township.

As the No. 2 and No. 3 employers in the county, Trinity Health and the University of Michigan Health System signed a master affiliation agreement in 2012. The companies say the deal will help them work together to determine the best place for each patient to receive treatment.

Eastern Michigan University joined the top five employers in the region in 2013. The very top companies account for a combined 39,001 jobs.

“With over 23,000 students and 2,000 employees, we take seriously our role in supporting the economic health of Ypsilanti and the entire county,” EMU director of community and government relations Leigh Greden said.

The university took the place of ACH-Saline which was dissolved in June 2012. Faurecia, the French company that purchased the automotive plant in Saline, employs 800 workers, according to SPARK, compared with the 2,300 who worked for ACH in 2012.

Toyota is now the largest automotive employer in the Ann Arbor area. Their Technical Centers in York and Ann Arbor townships have a combined 1,500 employees.

Toyota’s jump from 11 to six on the list was tied for the largest leap with Edwards Brothers Malloy book printer, which merged with Malloy, Inc. and became the largest book printer in the region.

The former Edwards Brothers, Inc. leapfrogged Sheridan Books for that honor and established itself as the No. 20 employer in the area.

U-M, the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and DTE Energy are the only employers in the top 25 with a presence in Ann Arbor’s downtown core, and more than half the companies on the list operate outside of the city’s limits.

Downtown office space has been difficult to come by and extremely expensive, leading many of the largest employers in the area operate in the townships and cities that surround Ann Arbor.

The only company to make the list of top 25 employers and top 20 Ann Arbor taxpayers was DTE Energy. The electricity supplier is the No. 22 employer in the county and the city’s No. 4 taxpayer.

The University of Michigan would be the city’s largest taxpayer as well as its top employer, but the university does not pay property taxes on land it owns in the city.

Note: It has been added that DTE Energy has a downtown presence in Ann Arbor. The article as originally published did not include the energy company in the list of entities downtown.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Should be interesting to see the revised numbers in 2014 - when 30-hours will be considered Full-Time for health-care...under the new "Affordable Care Act. You might see organizations revising their work-force to have more employees under 30-hours per week so they don't "have to" provide coverage.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

Many of the "companies" on the 25 list are not companies, but government entities in one form or another.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Here's an idea to SPARKY more growth- the A2 commune. Flexible cloud-like work for "young professionals" downtown. Swipe your entrepreneur card at any downtown kiosk and be directed and/or scheduled into a your choice of a private laptop cubicle or powered workstation or conference room nearby(or bicycle over to). Work alone or together for awhile with your teammates then go out for social play with others in the artistically inspired Ann Arbor's own original open green spaces and bars, cafes, restaurants, or pinball rooms or galleries or movie houses or parks. Maybe even purchase a gift for a friend or get a massage or a haircut or workout at the rec center or marketeer a good or a service to others at a card swipe booth. Plenty of parking too. A very structured but open cloud "commune" (as in community). Real 60's communes failed as being too loose and unrewarding. The greedy came took and left the crumbs for other volunteers to keep cleaning up after.. Who needs another SPARKY-DDA study anyway?


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 10:46 a.m.

@Steve Thanks. Some officials (the DDA and now SPARK) envision the downtown area as growing to be a mini metropolis. Promote a greater environmental density of "young professionals" plugged into their computers inside office highrises. Like a mini New York or Boston. A vibrant core of cement, steel, and glass; bars, cafes, and restaurants; walkers, buses, and bikes. The fact of life is that just compacting people doesn't stop the environmental effects of overpopulation. Conservationists know that simply adding more people adds costs which in turn requires more people and more taxes to support them - again. Old story. Office people today can and are working together remotely. As reported, half the time of X-gens is now virtual. The need for a hard "block" of space and parking downtown to attract enterprise is old - unless you are into old fashioned real estate development for profit (the big A2 elephant). If the city of Ann Arbor has to grow to survive economically then it won't ever survive. If it can't sustain what made it attractive now then it won't ever be sustained later and will implode - again. Decay happened to most all major cities in 70's and was the impetus for mandated DDAs to attract money back to the undesirable cities. SPARK's own list proves the point. Almost every "company" that would need a "block" downtown is School, hospital, factory, or enterprise that would not move there now even if there were space. Companies are still choosing cost-saving sprawl out to the low rent townships and Dexter. Ann Arbor profiteers and their SPARKY-DDA need a newer vision and sustainability plan other than downtown density growth as the "cost" of ugly city implosion has already begun - again.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

Conversely, Yahoo just announced the recall of their virtual workers (NY Times). Not because they weren't being productive - they were - but to encourage greater creativity to save the company. The idea that physical interaction spurs creativity. The Japanese ran into a similar problem when they were successfully becoming a manufacturing powerhouse of quality products over and above the U.S. variety. They could refine every American process except for one - creativity. Their culture demanded hierarchy obedience which didn't encourage independence. So they built "creativity rooms" at the factory where employees could get away from management and let their freak flags fly. Notice the "game room" at Barracuda? Yahoo will find that corporate creativity beings with leadership. Sony was an independent "outsider" who build a success. Apple and Google both had have) creative freaks who also happened to be shrewd businessmen. Stuffing people into a highrise can force creativity. But then so can a restaurant, bar, cafe, or even a park. Physical interaction is the key. People like people. "Open" freak gathering in a fun place makes money. SPARKY-DDA and even the Mayor should all know that by now.

Tom Todd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

More anti-union rhetoric from


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 3 a.m.

In the article and the 48 comments the word "union" was only mention once - in your comment, So I'm not sure where the rhetoric is that you mention.


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

A2 Public Schools as nearly twice as many employees as EMU? Hold up. Wait a minute. What is wrong with this picture? How many students are there in the public school system? Is it just me, or does that seem excessively high?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:45 p.m.

I'm still waiting for all the those promises from Google a few years back to come to fruition. Remember when they had the big pow wow about coming to town, the governor came in and everyone was super happy at the effects it would have. To my knowledge, they are still below 300 employees total. A far cry from the 1,000 they said they'd have here in by 2011. SPARK, get on that.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

Referring to public colleges and universities, public schools, and local governments as "companies" doesn't really seem appropriate.

John Floyd

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:07 a.m.

Agreed. Non-profits and government agencies are not companies. You could write about the largest employers and speak of them, but being large does not make a non-taxpayer a company.

Ben Freed

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Paul Saginaw, co-owner of Zingerman's told me his company currently employs 583 people , which would put the company at 23rd off the list and knock Domino's out of the rankings.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

Yes. An enormous distinction between 1 FTE (Full time equivalent) and anything less than that. I'm guessing those numbers on the list = FTE. But it doesn't say that anywhere in the story.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

But is he including part time/seasonal employees?

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:51 p.m.

Not included here: an estimate of how many of those jobs are because of SPARK's efforts.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Specific to the list mentioned, zero. Kind of odd that SPARK lists these large employers when their reason for being around is to assist small fledgling companies(originally anyway). As a catalyst for startups, incubator as they put it, they seemed to be a good fit here. Be interesting to see what their impact is in 5-10 years and how much power they they'll have, and what the leadership will be making yearly. I always find it odd that non profits have leaders that clear 100K in salary.

Rick Stevens

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

SPARK? Are they the official agency for employment numbers now? Or is this just another PR article for them? If they are from SPARK then please carefully vet them since other SPARK numbers aren't audited or verified (except by SPARK) and have proven overblown in the past (job creation numbers).


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Okay SPARKY-DDA cheerleaders. Here is a quicky sustainability test. Which one of these large "regional" employers would just leap at the chance to relocate downtown Ann Arbor if there were only enough office space ? 1. The UM (classified operation "UsurpA2" has already commenced) 2. The UM Hospital (nope - guess again) 3. St. Joe (ahh, left long time ago)) 4. Ann Arbor Public Schools (downsizing) 5. EMU (classified op "UsurpY" has already commenced) 6, Toyota Technical Center (top secret issolated R&D facilities) 7. Thomson Reuters (too late, recently moved out to Technology Drive & Data Court & Dexter MI) 8. WCC (nope - try a little harder) 9. Washtenaw County Government (already present) 10.V.A. Medical Center (close - no cigar) 11.Truven Health Analytics (now with Veritas Capital formerly with Thomson Reuters & still at 777 building) 12.The US Postal Service (downsizing) 13.CitiMortgage (Avis Farms Pittsfield Twp) 14.Ford Motor Company (used to be Dearborn - call and ask) 15.Faurecia (Saline Plant - near France) 16.City of Ann Arbor (Oh, oh - got the joker - time to pack things up) 17.JAC Products (factory off Eisenhower) 18.Ypsilanti Public Schools (consolidating around Ypsi) 19.Saline Public Schools (maybe- call them and ask) 20.Edwards Brothers (factory off State) 21. Terumo (factory off Jackson) 22. DTE (secretly backup team for UM under operation "UsurpA2") 23. Sheridan Books (off Jackson & Chelsea MI) 24. ProQuest (Cambridge Information Group, moved from 777 long ago) 25. Dominoes Pizza (hot-n-fresh good for you - still not gonna move HQ) Hey, how about a skating rink?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

I see where you are going, but as usual posters on here always post dead end comments with no alternative options. When you say relocate downtown, what would your suggestions be for any of these large employers to move to? Remember 800 plus employees, and would need 600-700 plus parking spots. Feel free to rehash your list above and give specific locations on where facilities of this size could be downtown, including the parking that would be needed. Would be good to note too, only 10-15% of the employees have access to public transit to bring them downtown Ann Arbor. We'll await your updates....


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

Thomson Reuters sold the business located in the former 777 Building, and the company is called Truven, which is also listed in the table. Is there double counting?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Actually, the 1100 number reflects the sale of healthcare business. Thomson Reuters has two large facilities just south of the airport and 1 by the new costco, totaling 1100 employees. When the Healthcare business was still a part of Thomson Reuters, they were listed as 5th on the list, just above Eastern Michigan for total employed.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

Ben - So if they are located in Dexter, why are they included in Ann Arbors numbers?

Ben Freed

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Dobsonion, Thomson Reuters did sell the business in the 777 building, but still employs people at a tax and accounting division in Dexter. Ben

genevieve forester

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

I sincerely hope EMU remembers their commitment to the economic health of the region when RTW kicks in...


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

More proof that " government does not create jobs". Right?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

Northside...Clownfish was being sarcastic. I'm reading into his comment that the government should not be as big of an employer as they are. And that he disapproves of their growing payroll.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Great point, clownfish. Maybe libertarians and conservatives keep a different set of job statistics?

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Those folks who are so quick to criticize everything the University of Michigan does, would do well to remember those numbers. Perhaps the University doesn't pay taxes, no public university does, that's the way it has always been. But over 28,000 people can pay their taxes because of their jobs at the University of Michigan.

Sam S Smith

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

Thank you. I was just asking a question and you explained it very nicely.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

@sam - payroll taxes all go into the federal & state coffers. However these 28k employees do pay their own property taxes b/c they live in Ann arbor or at least patronize the area businesses and help them pay their taxes because they work here if they live outside A2. That doesn't take into account the economic boom caused by the student population either.

Sam S Smith

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

I'm not against the U of M but over 28,000 people help pay taxes in Ann Arbor?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Melanie Maxwell's aerial view of the U of M hospitals is fascinating. I suspect that the red-and-white cross on the roof of the new C.S. Mott Children's Hospital identifies a helicopter landing pad, as would be expected.

Ben Freed

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Agreed, she's taken some great aerial photos that you'll get to see more of as we publish more stories about different areas of town!

Ed Kimball

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Why is Thompson-Reuters, with 1100 employees, listed before WCC, Washtenaw County, and the VAMC, each of which employs more than 1200? Are the numbers wrong or is it the sort order?


Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

JBK It is a list of the Ann Arbor AREA's top 25 employers. Notice EMU, Toyota Technical Center, Washtenaw Community College, Ford Motor, Faurecia, Ypsilanti Public Schools and Saline Public Schools on the list too.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Why is Thomson even on this list? They sold their health care division and locally, they are in Dexter.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

That's not the only sorting error. The US Post Office at at 923 should be above Truven at 900. Did the makers of this list just not resort the database after updating the numbers?

Ben Freed

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

I took the screenshot from the SPARK website for the graphic. When doing calculations and reporting I used a list that corrected the order. I just didn't think an excel spreadsheet would look as nice as a visual.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Noticed that too - I think the spreadsheet sort is a big fail there.

Dave Koziol

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Ben, you said UofM and AAPS are the only two downtown, but DTE is downtown too.

Ben Freed

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Dave, that's a good point. DTE's offices are downtown as well. That's my bad.

The Picker

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

What's interesting is that the taxpayers fund 7 of the top 10 !


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

@Sam, I work with many people in Ann Arbor who live in surrounding counties (Oakland, Wayne, Jackson, Lenawee) plus some who commute from Ohio. I know for a fact that they buy gas here, shop here at their lunch hour, patronize local restaurants, etc. When they shop at Briarwood, they are supporting Ann Arbor's largest property taxpayer. If they didn't work in Ann Arbor, they wouldn't come here for other reasons.

Sam S Smith

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Sure, these people pay taxes but not to Ann Arbor and most patronize places where they live.

Ed Kimball

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

True, but their employees pay taxes, and they patronize businesses that pay taxes.

Tom Todd

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.



Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

Be Reasonable! If the non-profits had to pay taxes like everyone else how could they afford the exorbitant salaries paid to their executives?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

True! AND those 7 do not pay a dime towards infrastructure, essential services, etc. as they are NON-PROFIT!:)


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Goes to show you that the government is a growth industry.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

Interesting that most of the employers are not downtown. It would be extremely difficult to get that kind of space, though. I see Google is below 550 employees.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

From what I hear from business owners/real estate sources/developers there are several issues with downtown office space. 1) it's simply not available. There are very few large floor plate spaces downtown, with the exception being Ashley Terrace - which has sat vacant for years. 2) it's expensive. 3) there is no parking. Add parking costs on top of the office space and you're paying high premiums to be downtown. Obviously, for some companies it's worth it (Barracuda's recent expansion comes to mind) Here's a story I wrote about the downtown office market and its challenges: These are all issues the city is looking at with the CWS study, also. And for most developers, building downtown doesn't make financial sense right now. Especially when you have 15 percent office vacancies in certain parts of the county.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

The city continues to choke arteries coming in and out of the city, and raisie tax's. I believe it is more a combination of high tax's, and the ease of getting in and out of downtown that is keeping large business's from setting up in A2. It just isn't profitable to set-up shop in A2 anymore. Something the city council should be working on instead of driving business's out of the city.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

The present owners of Ashley-Terrace figured a way around the high cost of building and leasing in downtown Ann Arbor when they bought the building out of bankruptcy for only thirty percent of the original cost. The low price that they paid allows them to offer apartment rentals at competitive market rates. So the formula for getting more density downtown is to have developers finagle financing for expensive construction, then go into bankruptcy so that another investor can buy the construction at fire sale prices. The lower cost basis that results allows the owner to achieve occupancy by offering space for more reasonable rental rates.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

Lizzy - Completely agree. It would be difficult, but as the city has a plan that calls for density, they need to figure out a way to move more of these companies downtown.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

This composition would be true of almost any city of any size. Conversely, 75% of all are jobs are NOT provided by the areas top 25 largest employers. Just saying there is more than one way to spin this headline.


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Good point! Kind of reminds me of how "Match" claims that 2 out of every 5 relationships begin online, WHICH means that 3 out of 5 DON'T. :)