Deals of the Year speakers celebrate Washtenaw County's business successes
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Speakers at AnnArbor.com Business Review's 6th annual Deals of the Year awards dinner Friday said the area's business successes are helping lead Michigan out of the recession.
They also expressed optimism that Ann Arbor will continue to serve as an example of economic vibrancy for the region, state, and country.
"How can we not be happy to be here?" said Stephen Forrest, University of Michigan's vice president for research, as he launched the awards portion of the program.
"The Ann Arbor community has been very fortunate, and I've been very fortunate. That's one of the things that drove me to run," said Snyder, a venture capitalist and former president of Gateway Inc. "This is our opportunity to give back."
David Parsigian, managing partner of the Ann Arbor office of law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, introduced the award winner for Company of the Year -- the Zingerman's Family of Businesses -- by saying it exemplifies the Ann Arbor business success story: an idea born in Ann Arbor, and executed in a way that develops a national and international reputation for excellence.
"Where else would you stand in line for an hour for a sandwich you need a home equity loan to buy?" Parsigian joked before presenting the award to Zingerman's co-founder Paul Saginaw.
Zingerman's, Parsigian said, "demonstrates the power of an idea."
That's true of all of the evening's winners and presenters, many of whom were previous Deals of the Year winners. Presenters included Susan Martin, president of EMU; David Canter, executive director of U-M's North Campus Research Complex; Gretchen Driskell, mayor of Saline; Ann Marie Sastry, CEO of Sakti3; Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results; and Ric Devore, regional president of PNC Bank.
Jeff Williams, winner of Executive of the Year, is an example of a CEO whose serial success keep powering business growth in Ann Arbor, said presenter Mike Finney, CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK.
Today, Williams is CEO of Accuri Cytometers, which previously won a Deal of the Year award for its technology. He's also led HandyLab to its $275 million sale to BD in 2009.
"Jeff Williams is the guy I want to be," Finney said. "A serial entrepreneur.
"... There are very few people in our community that have had that kind of successful track record."
Presenter Roger Newton, co-founder of Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug, also spoke of finding business opportunity as he prepared to present the health care segment award to Nanobio.
As Pfizer left Ann Arbor in 2007 and 2008, Newton pulled together investors and other resources to take advantage of the opportunity to re-acquire Esperion Therapeutics, the company he once sold to the drug-making giant.
Today, he's running Esperion 2 and and providing inspiration to entrepreneurs and researchers in southeast Michigan's biotech community.
Accomplishing that wouldn't have happened without the help and vision of others, including Snyder and Chris Rizik, winner of Deals of the Year award for Technology for his role in Renaissance Venture Capital Fund.
"They took a big risk," Newton said.
That type of risk - and its payback - emerged as a thread among the comments at the evening's celebration. And many said that's important not just for Ann Arbor, but for the entire state.
"Michigan," Forrest reminded the crowd, "really did build the American economy in the 20th century.
"It can do it again, and I think it's on this path."
Business Review reporter Nathan Bomey and Lucy Ann Lance, host of the Lucy Ann Lance Business Insider radio show, served as the event's emcees. Business Director Paula Gardner was the night's host.
A list of the winners is available here.
Dan Meisler is a freelance reporter.