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Posted on Tue, May 10, 2011 : 10:43 a.m.

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

By Ryan J. Stanton

(This story was written by Ryan Stanton and Nathan Bomey.)

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 Arbor and $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.


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

Angela Cesere |

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.

(Editor's note: Executive Vice President Laurel Champion serves as treasurer of Ann Arbor SPARK's Board of Directors and Executive Committee.)

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter .



Thu, May 12, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

SPARK should report its costs of operation including the salaries paid to its employees. Like with non-profit organizations the percentage of revenues going directly towards the effort to increase employment should be clearly defined. While creating any number of new jobs is desirable some targeted expectations should be stated that can be used to measure SPARK's success or failure. SPARK should be required every year to defend its continued existence since much of its financing involves taxpayer dollars.


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:32 a.m.

Actually there is a not so difficult way for SPARK (and any other econ dev group in Michigan) to audit actual direct job creation by the companies they assist -- require to see the state personal income tax withholding filings for each job created. This should be required as a boilerplate element in EVERY contract SPARK lets to provide funding to a company. That said, this will take some work so I'm not going to get my hopes up, don't want to distract from all the golf and socializing...


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

To do so what set a precedent and ALL programs of this nature would have to require the same rules -- and entire NEW wing of government would need to be created for this to be enforced for these groups ... same with all non-profits that get public funds it can be done - but be carefull what u ask for ... I never said the system worked, I only stated how its done


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

Here is a dirty little secret -- all of these stats are vounteered by the businesses and can never be confirmed ... they are self reporting from surveys ... that is it! its just how things are done - and most govt agencies or quasi agencies are the same way economic impact is nearly impossible to verify or confirm, even with compliance from clients - and as mentioned, these are projections there is no way for a third party to verify and if another company is hired, it will be the same process remember, our FEDERAL unemployment numbers are often inconsistent and one would think those would be easier to track so dont hate on SPARK for reporting the numbers their clients gave them - that is how the system works


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

Townie - It is the way the stimulus jobs were reported by President Obama. It is the way our various levels of government work. Accountability does not exist!


Wed, May 11, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

Wonderful. So we just have to accept that there's no way to verify what we spend tons of money on? Nope, I don't buy that -- there is a way if you want to honestly find out but that's not the case. Just dump billions into something that you can't measure?! Please. Would a business do that? NO. We appear to want to measure educational outcomes but for some reason can't measure this? Please. The ultimate cop out: ''that is how the system works'. All the more reason to change the system.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Ah, more SPARK generated stats with no other independent review. Wouldn't be nice if we could all write our own personnel reviews and said we did a super job and deserve a raise? No link to the 2010 SPARK annual report? When do those who pay for SPARK get the chance to read about these miracles? Love this caveat: "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." Your mileage may vary...

Tom Whitaker

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 6 p.m.

$1.12 million from the LDFA funded by Ann Arbor and Ypsi (mostly Ann Arbor). An additional $225K from the LDFA. $75K from the City of Ann Arbor. $350K from UM. That's $1.77 million from primarily Ann Arbor sources, given with the intention of creating jobs here, where the money originated. But the "successes" (however they are defining that term) are in Saline, Ann Arbor Township and Pittsfield Township. How much are those communities contributing to SPARK (other than indirectly through the County as Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents are also doing). No wonder the County population increased while Ann Arbor's decreased over the past 10 years. We are subsidizing out-county job-creation and business expansion (and soon mass transit, too). The SPARK salaries are enormous, especially considering the negligible (or at least undocumented) results they provide. As atticus suggests, let's take that money back from this bullpen for unemployed executives and put it toward a local hiring tax credit. Or a local film credit, or historic preservation credit, or rental housing improvements credit, etc. etc.


Tue, May 10, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Seems to me that JAC just announced that they have been acquired by someone else. No University money or city money or taxes should go to SPARK. It seems that the University President is taking care of SPARK, she is a member of the Board of Directors along with the Mayor of Ann Arbor. Do you wonder why they support Snyder. The "GOOD OL BOY" system is alive and well.

Patricia Lesko

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

This piece is a glorified press release. Whichever one of you wrote this touched on what the real story is: "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." Many times? Who told you that? How many times? How much lower? Your editor let you get by with a vague generalization because, of course, you didn't dig. The Detroit News did an expose that showed in our state fewer than 1,000 permanent jobs had been created thanks to $80 million funneled, primarily, to Ann Arbor start-ups, as well as SPARK through the 21st Century Jobs Fund. Ask a single question: "Mr. Krutko, tell me about the mechanisms in place at Ann Arbor SPARK to track actual job creation at companies that received and have received taxpayer funding since 2006." Then, write your story.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

key words are "plans" and "eventually".

Atticus F.

Tue, May 10, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

How about instead of giving big business a tax break and hoping for job creation through 'trickle down economics', we instead offer businesses a hiring credit?