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Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

Ann Arbor SPARK receives $1 million in state funding for new business incubator collaboration efforts

By Ben Freed


Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko stands outside the organization's startup business incubator on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Angela Cesere |

The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded $1 million to Ann Arbor SPARK to create a new Washtenaw County Incubator Collaborative (WCIC).

The collaborative is being created in partnership with the MC3 Business Accelerator and Michigan Research Institute (MRI) both of which also are based in Ann Arbor.

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The funding, which is matched by a $722,500 contribution from MC3 and MRI, will be directed towards a two-year project designed to address challenges to the Ann Arbor entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The primary focuses of the effort will be increasing collaboration between incubators and bridge funding gaps for startup companies SPARK CEO Paul Krutko said in a statement.

“This award enables Ann Arbor SPARK and its WCIC partners to provide companies and entrepreneurs with access to critical services that catalyze revenue growth, job creation and new investment,” he said.

SPARK operates two incubators in Washtenaw County. SPARK Central is located on East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor and the SPARK East incubator is on West Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti. Laurel Champion, MLive's general manager for Southeast Michigan is on the Ann Arbor SPARK business development committee.

The new collaborative will allow startup businesses greater access to wet lab space at MC3 and MRI in addition to greater technical vetting and product prototyping.

State funding for the initiative was provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a program administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. designed to grow and diversify Michigan’s economy.

According to the press release, the WCIC will create 10 new jobs in various entrepreneurial support positions to help administer the new incubator services and infrastructure.

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



Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:53 p.m.

I am not an advocate for SPARK or a critic - here are the numbers from their annual report 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


Thu, Jan 31, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

That's a lot of dough "slushing" around! I don't see the expenditure for SPARK'S annual black tie, evening gown, Dom Perignon and caviar high society schmooze-fest in there any place.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:52 a.m.

There's that ludicrously inflated jobs tally again.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

I strongly suspect that most of the jobs created by SPARK are right there within their highly paid headquarters. SPARK, DDA & all the other such programs would best be simply cancelled. Let's put all that tax money back into real services like police & fire & roads.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

except at the top levels, there is a huge turnover of talent at SPARK all the time -- younger workers dont make much and move on so they are not all highly paid -- most are just getting by


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

See how the accountability on these PR job "stories" about SPARK and the DDA is totally non-existant? They get the word from on high to write them, they diligently pump them out, then banish them to the back pages when the comment section turns against them. The fact that I asked for descriptions of the "terms" used in this story to describe the value tax-payers were getting from the enforced funding of SPARK, and none was forthcoming, means: 1. the reporter has no idea what those terms mean either and has to go back to the source and find out what they mean, or 2. he has dutifully pumped out this glossy press release and moved on..

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

@schlomo: "As a person who is not involved with business I would like to know know specifically what terms lile "wet lab", "tech vetting", and "product prototyping" actually mean;" I think that process traditionally involves getting a *Huge* order of Zingermans catering - all the meats, all cheeses, all the breads, salads, fruits, pies and stuff. And then it's when you just sit down and experiment to combine those things in stimulating ways. Either before eating them, or just in your belly.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Ben, Maybe you could get Mr. Krutko to explain what they actually DO with all that money rather than allowing him to throw around a bunch of inscrutable biz-mag buzzwords (as though those are actual services that everyone should recognize) and then you copying them down. If YOU know what that stuff means, you have not passed that knowledge along to your readers. And that, really, is the job of the journalist. "..getting details of what is actually being paid for is impossible. The smokescreen is quite thick around SPARK."


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

As a person who is not involved with business I would like to know know specifically what terms lile "wet lab", "tech vetting", and "product prototyping" actually mean; with examples. Specific applications would lift the smokescreen.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

So, instead of giving $1,000,000 to new businesses, we're going to give it to these rent seekers to "address the issues new businesses face when starting up."


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Uppermost being the acquisition of better tee times.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

If we have the Downtown Development Authority, why do we need SPARK? It seems like we have two places taking tax revenue to "create jobs" without any accountability for their actions and results.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

gee whiz, Snyder is giving SPARK a million dollars. I wonder what his motivations could be...


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:10 a.m.

I rather wish SPARK would close up shop at their Ypsilanti space. I know more than a few entrepreneurs who could turn the storefronts into actual working, producing retail space.

Tom Whitaker

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:49 a.m.

SPARK seems quite flush thanks to the constant influxes of cash from its former CEO's, Gov. Rick Snyder and MEDC CEO Michael Finney. Maybe NOW the City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County can stop diverting scarce revenues from our schools and essential government services and giving them to SPARK? Other recent contributions made to SPARK, courtesy of State taxpayers:


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:54 a.m.

Livingston Country has also been blessed with SPARK's services to create jobs. But, at least we only are on the tab for about $350,000 per year, for which we are able to consult with one of their staff and receive some literature and pep talk, I think. Like Washtenaw, though, getting details of what is actually being paid for is impossible. The smokescreen is quite thick around SPARK


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:37 a.m.

Remember the 12,000 jobs claim that turned out to be 79 jobs? Another $million down the rabbit hole.. I guess a few people will get some nice golf out of that money?


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

I'm guessing that $7.7 million had something to do with making Snyder governor. So add that one job to the 79- that's 11,920 jobs lost.

David Briegel

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

jcofffey, It is only wasted when Dems do it. TeaPublicons love their Bridges To Nowhere! xmo, I thought your beloved free market created jobs? I thought all those tax cuts created jobs. I thought it was the evil big gubbermint that KILLED jobs! Or, do righties speak with forked tongue?


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Their arguments only need to last in their own heads as they type them down. They have no problem parroting the opposite position when they are told to do so by their thought masters.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:45 a.m.

More wasted money.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

Another one of those Evil Deeds Rick Snyder is doing to Unions! Trying to create start up Businesses!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

I would say it's another one of those evil things he's doing to education - throwing tons of money at a group that has no track record, at the expense of everything else. That money has created a handful of jobs for the people who run Spark, and likely get big fat salaries to do so. Has it done anything more?

Ghost of Tom Joad

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

how does that have anything to do with unions? Do you think that startup businesses don't have workforces that could unionize?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

"a two-year project designed to address challenges to the Ann Arbor entrepreneurial ecosystem.'" Wow. So I guess they produce Synergy. I simply cannot believe that more people are not clamoring for some kind of accountability from SPARK. Great to see that they're hiring more people to handle more free money, and paying them with free money. Free for THEM, of course. Just wonderful. The worst part of all this is that if they are ever caught doing deplorable, lazy, or dishonest things with all this money they TAKE and GET, it'll just be the same old story; they finally got caught, they resign, take their huge bonuses, and that's the end of that. WHERE IS SOMETHING THAT RELIABLY SHOWS SOME CONCRETE, QUANTIFIABLE DELIVERABLES FROM SPARK??!!! Where is there any accounting of money they've received and its equivalent benefit to the community they claim to serve?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:14 p.m. - could you please find out how many jobs have been created by SPARK? They have been handed plenty of taxpayer money and have a salaried staff, but what have we gotten for our money?


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

For the skinny on Spark do a search at Here's just one article:


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:38 a.m.

Whoops.. I linked that article, too. Well, I hope everyone reads it.

Rick Stevens

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

Gotta love this kind of prose: '...towards a two-year project designed to address challenges to the Ann Arbor entrepreneurial ecosystem.' Anyone remember all the nice tax breaks that were granted to Pfizer and where that whole thing went? More tax payer money down the old SPARK dark hole. How about specifying how many real jobs will be created with the $1 million and then make sure there's an independent audit in 18-24 months to validate the number of jobs created and the cost per job created. And then the results to be published here. Yes, I know I'm dreaming but any real investor would demand that kind of accountability.

Ben Freed

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

Rick, I'm glad you liked my prose. I'm currently tied up with a few other projects but I will be getting back to SPARK to see if they have measurables that they will be using for this grant money. I appreciate the suggestion.