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Posted on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor SPARK aims to keep young people in Michigan via new internship program

By Lizzy Alfs

Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko believes college students and young professionals can help lead the state’s economic recovery.

That’s why SPARK — a private-public partnership co-founded in 2005 by Gov. Rick Snyder — recently launched a new program to help local start-up companies fund the cost of an internship.


Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, the region's public-private economic development group.

Angela Cesere |

SPARK is financing half the cost of an internship program at 10 start-up companies in the Ann Arbor area.

Among the companies: Akervall Technologies, Duo Security, Dangos, Inner Circle Media, Real Good Food, SentryMed, Think Tech Labs, TruApp, YourCall.FM and Regenerate Solutions.

“We are providing a funding match to early-stage, small companies and start-ups that would not otherwise be able to afford to hire an intern,” said Donna Doleman, SPARK’s vice president of marketing, communications and talent.

She added: “It’s a win-win because it provides the college students, obviously, with a paid work experience in an innovative entrepreneurial environment, but also the company gets the help that they need.”

At the same time, the 12 interns also participate in a “social program” managed by SPARK that coordinates informal activities in the Ann Arbor area.

Social activities include group canoe trips, a Top of the Park tent mixer and a two-month long scavenger hunt around Ann Arbor, according to a news release. The winner of the scavenger hunt receives an iPad donated by the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Aside from the 12 interns in the program, the social activities include interns from Google, U-M and Toyota.

Krutko told in May that it’s critical to make Ann Arbor an “appealing place” — something that will convince college graduates to stay and work in the area.

He said SPARK is supportive of initiatives that work to enhance the area’s quality of life, such as efforts to promote Ann Arbor’s live music scene and opportunities to make more affordable rental housing available near downtown Ann Arbor for young professionals.

“We need to do everything we can to make this an appealing place, so we can capture a great share of people that are graduating from here,” he said.

Doleman added: “The opportunity we have in Ann Arbor is really to expose young talent to what all of Ann Arbor has to offer, in hopes that they will consider choosing Ann Arbor as a destination for job opportunities in the future.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Wed, Jun 27, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

2011 annual report available online SPARK Operating Budget $4,411,000 Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund and Microloan Funds $2,269,000 Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center, LLC $1,452,000 Total SPARK Budget: $8,132,000 2006-2011 Leveraged Funding Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund $24,470,000 Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund $18,470,000 Company Matching Funds Microloan Fund $1,475,000 Wet Lab Incubator $1,000,000 Michigan Innovation Equipment Depot $5,400,000 Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center, LLC $4,500,000 Michigan Economic Development Corporation $300,000 Federal Government $532,000 State of Michigan Incubator Grant $250,000 Company Formation and Growth Fund $3,750,000 Michigan Technology Tri-Corridor $750,000 New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan $450,000 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition $2,350,000 Total: $63,697,000 2006-2011 Results Project Successes 224 New Investment Commitments $1.3 Billion Jobs 10,905


Tue, Jul 17, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

How much of that New Investment Commitment has actually materialized. Also the jobs numbers are inflated. Case in point: Google moved to Ann Arbor promising 1,100 jobs. Actual number of hires: 250. SPARK still claims to have added 1,100 jobs, even though the actual number is lower. They don't keep records of how many jobs are actually created so they can make up these numbers out of thin air and not be held accountable. "In April 2009, LDFA Chair Richard King (the LDFA board members are appointed by Ann Arbor City Council to supervise SPARK) reported to Ann Arbor City Council that SPARK had created 600 jobs since 2006." I see this as one more shell game by conservatives cashing in on the public dime.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Only 18 comments. Maybe bloggers are tired. Maybe no one cares about this article. Maybe no one cares at all. I still think that the focus of SPARK is suspect and totally political. No stellar leadership!


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

I think we need a lot more than that to retain young folks here in Ann Arbor -- first, internships are unpaid, so there is that....second, as a small business employer myself who faces lots of turnover if I hire younger folks, the primary reasons for leaving are the weather, the gay/lesbian unfriendly climate in Michigan, and higher pay down south for similar jobs... We can't change the weather. We can look at public policy and pay equity, but those are things that will take time and won't help retain young folks TODAY.... Hope Spark's program works....


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

"Helping America head to a low wage paradise for Corporations" Rick Snyder's dream vision is slowly coming to fruition....


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Nice scam. ' These companies can pay but with the help of SPARK (using our tax payer monies without having to account for it) they can scam kids to work for free! What a deal! Shame on you. Helping America head to a low wage paradise for Corporations.

Top Cat

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

SPARK continues to look like an organization in search of a purpose. Kind of like NATO.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

SPARK is a 'crony scam' and only resembles NATO. NATO actually does more than SPARK does. It actually puts boots on the ground (go to Afghanistan some time...). SPARK is really joke and they laugh all the way to the bank.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

You're right! Just like Occupy Wall Street.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

Just more of SPARK's hocus pocus.

John of Saline

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Almost all the people I knew from college moved away, that's for sure. Medical-field people were the only ones likely to stick around.

Kai Petainen

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

awesome stuff. i recognize some of the companies. congrats! although i'll give SPARK some grief for snubbing the Upper Peninsula, I'll give them congrats and kudos for this. this is fantastic news, and it's great for thing for Ann Arbor. The marketing arm of Pure Michigan has direct (networking) relations with SPARK, and the recent Pure Michigan newsletter had 9 events in Michigan -- all in lower Michigan. Not to mention, I have yet to hear any word from Pure Michigan about the 50th anniversary of the International Bridge. They forgot one of our key bridges. Don't forget the Upper Peninsula. It's Pure Michigan, not 1/2 Michigan. SPARK / Pure Michigan / MEDC shouldn't just concentrate on the lower 1/2 of Michigan, especially when key players at those firms have networking connections with one another.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

Congrats to SPARK for scamming poor college kids into working for profitable companies for free? That's why the UP is being scammed -- wake up.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

But why won't SPARK open their financials? They're given loads of taxpayer dollars, but for some reason, they will not provide any transparency or publish a list of jobs created, jobs sustained, what those jobs are, how much they pay or how much they spend to create those jobs. All we get are press releases and fanboy cheerleaders. Pics or it didn't happen.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

This internship program sounds great as an out-of-state student who attends University of Michigan. However, I actually interviewed with one of the listed small start-up companies and not only were they not going to pay me AT ALL, they wanted me to work a full work-week 9-5, 5 days a week. I was very interested in the internship but for that amount of commitment without pay shows how internships are starting to take advantage of students who are looking for work while the company replaces a real-paying job with an unpaid intern. If you want to keep more young people in Ann Arbor AND have them contribute to the economy, this is not the way to do it.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Thanks for telling us about this scam. I hope you can find a good job with a decent wage and benefits. Don't wait for the Republicans to get you a job -- it will be a Walmart. Which they think is a good deal since it pays something !


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

You hit the nail on the head. Many companies think of interns as replacements for fulltime heads and no or little cost. Students working through their school's internship program may have luck finding internships that do pay, often a nice salary. Coops exists also (student takes a semester off and usually works 8 months). Internship and Coop salaries are usually found on the college's website, for example: (scroll down for internships and coops)


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

Yes - let the experience leave. Does not say much about a middle age or older, experienced person if SPARK truly is focusing on college students, college age interns and young professionals. Would this same opportunity of an internship be offered to a capable, middle age person? I believe in a vibrant mix - attracting any and all to stay, not casting out and ignoring age and experience. Youth is not the total solution - again, a vibrant mix of all ages is the correct solution.


Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

More fluff on SPARK -- what's the deal, How about actually investigating these claims instead of just repeating a SPARK press release (or are you their public relations department?)? How about telling us if the 'interns' pay, benefits? How much does SPARK get for 'managing' these internships? How will they (SPARK) count these internships -- as 'jobs created'? Of course, we'll never know because they don't allow any transparency into their job creation figures nor are these figures audited.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 10:46 a.m.

Has Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko agreed yet to open his 'public-private partnership's' financial records to pubic inspection? As an Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County taxpayer it would be valuable to know what salaries, perks, expenses and expenditure of public tax funds actually gets us. You know, measurable results and not PR fluff about how SPARK is going to support local musicians.