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Posted on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10 a.m.

Quantum Signal plans to add 47 jobs after acquisition of Saline's former Union School building

By Nathan Bomey

Mitch Rohde.jpg

Quantum Signal cofounder Mitch Rohde sits on the bleachers in the old gymnasium of Saline's historic Union School, which his company is buying for $425,000 to serve as its new headquarters.

Alan Warren | For

Quantum Signal, whose imaging design and robotic technology have proven attractive to the U.S. military and video game companies, plans to add 47 jobs over five years in an expansion project tied to its move from Pittsfield Township to Saline.

The firm’s robots will replace students and administrators in the halls of Saline’s historic Union School, which Quantum Signal is acquiring for $425,000 in a deal the Saline Board of Education agreed to accept July 1.

“We’ll run robots up and down the halls,” cofounder and chief operating officer Mitch Rohde said, only half-jokingly.

Quantum Signal plans to move its operation from its 14,000-square-foot headquarters on Plaza Drive near the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport to the aged 43,000-square-foot school facility sometime this fall. The Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Economic Growth Authority Board is expected to approve a $206,083 tax credit today to support Quantum Signal’s expansion.

The growth is attributable to momentum in the 10-year-old University of Michigan spinoff company’s various military technology projects.

“It’s a great example of how it just takes a while sometimes for companies to really develop,” said Ken Nisbet, executive director of U-M’s Technology Transfer Office. “They continue to grow.”

The company cannot reveal many details about its classified projects, but its top initiatives include a software system that allows vehicles to automatically read road signs, a system the firm will show off at the Society of Automotive Engineers Convergence Conference in October. The company also programs video games through its Reactor Zero division.

Rohde said the company plans to hire programmers, digital artists, image processors and other software specialists. The firm, which once had just 1,800 square feet at its Pittsfield office, now employs 35 workers, up from 20 three years ago.

Rohde declined to discuss revenue, but in 2009 the company was starting four Phase 2 government projects collectively worth $2.9 million.

“As the number of projects has grown, so too has our staffing,” Rohde said.

Quantum Signal gets deluged with job applicants but continues to experience trouble finding qualified workers, Rohde said. That led the company to consider other locations, including the Washington D.C. region, with its proximity to the federal government, and the West Coast, with its extensive software talent.

But Rohde said the company’s local heritage and the ability to find a unique space in a business friendly city played a key role in keeping the company in the Ann Arbor region.

The company’s decision to purchase the Union School building came after a wide-ranging search.

Rohde said he toured many buildings in the Ann Arbor area - including Saline’s former R&B building, which was sold to Sun Engineering, and the city’s former Kelly’s building, which was sold to an ownership group that plans to start a new restaurant there.

Quantum Signal’s acquisition of the Union School building marks another sign of momentum for Saline’s downtown. The company’s employees will be within a short walk of the downtown’s restaurants and shops.

The Union School facility, constructed in the 1930s but since renovated for various purposes, was a unique opportunity for Quantum Signal.

Rohde said his employees liked the quirky historic aspects of the old building, including:

-The nuclear bomb shelter.

-The ‘50’s era gymnasium with hardwood floor and old bleachers. Rohde said the gym could serve as a perfect venue for its robotic tests in addition to lunchtime volleyball games. But he’s adamant that the wooden floor be carefully preserved.

-The artistic graffiti that recent students sprayed to decorate some interior walls of the building.

-The lockers that still line the hallways.

-The chemistry room that can be converted into a vehicle testing laboratory.

Quantum Signal plans minimal changes to the building’s exterior, though the company will tighten security throughout the facility due to the classified nature of its business. The company, which also gets the adjacent parking lot, plans to use the office and classroom space for various purposes.

“We don’t really have a plan just yet for every room,” Rohde said. “It’s TBD.”

Rohde said the firm also plans to renovate the building’s HVAC system to save on energy costs, since the company won’t need to use the entire building right away. The school district said it spent $150,000 to $160,000 a year to operate the building.

School officials are relocating alternative education functions and administrative offices to Liberty School on Ann Arbor-Saline Road.

Rohde is adamant that the building’s historic character be maintained and seamlessly integrated into the new use. He dismissed the suggestion that the company should conduct significant renovations.

“We have no interest in that whatsoever. We like the historical” aspects of the building, he said. “My guys are unbelievably creative, and they want to be in a space that reflects that.”

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


John Floyd

Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 12:55 a.m.

"Rohde is adamant that the buildings historic character be maintained and seamlessly integrated into the new use. He dismissed the suggestion that the company should conduct significant renovations. 'We have no interest in that whatsoever. We like the historical aspects of the building, he said. My guys are unbelievably creative, and they want to be in a space that reflects that.'" As I read this, Mr. Rohde equates historic preservation with creativity, even creativity in a tech context. While @6 Longtime AA has his finger on a symptom of Ann Arbor's disfunction, the disfunction is not caused by historic preservationists - it's caused by a City Hall that is out of touch with its citizens. A government that was actually in touch with its citizens would A) come up with development policies that actually reflected the community and so were non- or less-controversial, and B) would be more trusted by its citizens. If they trusted Ann Arbor government, citizens might feel less need to reflexively oppose development proposals. If they could trust City Hall, Ann Arborites might give up the assumption that any proposal approved by city hall must ignore the actual standards of the community. Again, Mr. Rohde's attitude towards historic preservation: "We like the historical' aspects of the building, he said. 'My guys are unbelievably creative, and they want to be in a space that reflects that.'" In his book, "Megatrends", author John Nesbit described this phenomenon as "High-tech, Hi-touch". Ironically, preservation is our real future, not historic demolition. John Floyd Republican Candidate for Ann Arbor City Council 5th Ward

Fat Bill

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 8:55 p.m.

What a cool way to preserve a building with a little historical significance yet allow the District to unload the maintenance burden. Welcome, Quantum, Saline is a nice town to settle down in!

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

I remember when Bill Williams started QS. Who knew it would be such a success? Congratulations, guys.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 4:18 p.m.

Excellent news for Saline. Both the school and the community.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

WOW...Way to go Mitch. I am very proud of you. Best of luck.....Uncle Mark


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 2:16 p.m.

I say "Way to go!". I have lived in Saline about 20 years... I have to admit looking at the photos made me feel like we were losing a piece of history. However, I am very excited that Quantum is choosing to keep the historical aspects of the building. Sounds like a great and exciting company. Welcome to Saline!

longtime AA

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

If this had happened in Ann Arbor, we would have seen (1) opposition of the (not yet heard of) Celtictown Neighborhood Organization; (2) a long approval process from (a not yet formed) Celtictown Historical District; (3)a long approval process finally working out an approval with the planning commission, (4) which then gets over-ruled by the City Council (5) which leads to either Quantum leaving town or discouraging other companies from trying to move to this community.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 12:24 p.m.

Welcome Quantum to Saline. I have to question selling the Union school for half of the cost of upgrading the A/C at the "Old middle school" It sure would have been cheaper to leave the admin. in Union. As far as the tax credit- It seems like these always go to larger companies that are doing OK. What about a little help for the start up and small companies that the banks are refusing to lend to.

Rob Pollard

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 11:05 a.m.

I'm not sure about the national stimulus in this one instance, but this does show govt dollars/support at work. This is a company whose products are sold mostly to the U.S. military, was spun off & helped started by U of M, and is receiving $206,083 from the MEDC (about 1/2 the purchase price of this building) - certainly they have needed some govt assistance! Good luck to this company and hope they continue expanding.

David Rhoads

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

I am pleased to read of Quantum's commitment to maintain the historical aspects of Union School and welcome them to our community. There is a need for more art oriented space in our downtown and perhaps something could be worked out with Quantum which would meet their security needs while utilizing more of the building and contributing to the quality of life in Saline.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 9:50 a.m.

At this stage in Saline School District's budget crisis, any monetary gain is better than no gain. And during these hard economic times, this is a very good move for the School District, as well as for the City of Saline's tax base; maybe these new jobs will bring more families to fill the vacant homes and loss of students Saline has seen over the past two years. Thank you Quantum Signal for seeing this historic building as a valuable resource. We need more businesses like you for our small town.


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

The School Board sold the Building way to cheap, but at least we are getting some jobs for our loss of dollars. I would only add that is more than Obama's stimulus plan has done!