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Posted on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Grant money helps persuade video game testing company to open Ann Arbor office

By Ben Freed

Video game testing and development company Nelson Interactive will invest $1.2 million to open an office in Ann Arbor that could employ as many as 95 people. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced that Nelson Interactive, a subsidiary of the Nelson Family of Companies, will be receiving a $400,000 performance-based grant from the state as well as a one-time grant from the city of Ann Arbor.


Nelson Interactive, based in Northern California, has locations across California and an office in Austin, Texas. The company helps video game makers with the development, testing, and rollout of new games.

“There are hotbeds of the gaming industry throughout the U.S. that produce the talent pool that we’re looking for, and we’ve identified one in Ann Arbor and at the University of Michigan,” said Courtney Dickson, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at Nelson.

According to the MEDC, Ann Arbor beat out a competing site in Ohio for the new office, in part due to the incentives offered by the state and city governments.

Kathleen Fagan, a spokeswoman for the MEDC, said the state’s Business Development Incentive grant will be tied to the company employing the amount of local talent it claims to be interested in hiring. Specific performance benchmarks for the grant are not available yet, she said.

Nelson Interactive is still in the planning stages of opening the office and does not have a timeline for when the Ann Arbor site will start operating.

“We’re driving the process,” Dickson said.

“We are super excited and we don’t want to be hesitant in announcing that we have a project in the works, but we are still very much in the planning stages and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves either.”

Dickson said Ann Arbor was also identified as a location for expansion because there are Nelson Interactive clients in the area.

Ann Arbor SPARK worked with Nelson on securing what the MEDC said is a one-time grant from the city, and Dickson said city officials have been extremely helpful in encouraging Nelson to choose Ann Arbor for its first Midwest office.

However, city spokeswoman Joanna Saterlee said the city is not engaged with a local request for a grant with Nelson Interactive. No grants for the company have come before the City Council.

Representatives from Ann Arbor SPARK declined to comment, citing Nelson Interactive’s desire to keep the specifics of the company’s Ann Arbor office under wraps for now.

Nelson Interactive has not leased any property in the Ann Arbor area, but the company has been working with Realtor Bob Andrus of Michigan Commercial Real Estate.

Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Stan Hyne

Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

I still remember how everyone cried when Pfizer moved in. It was a terrible giveaway, how could we? I still remember when Pfizer moved out. The city could no longer exist without their money.


Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Who cares about the details. Hasn't anybody noticed. This company is going to hire people and PAY them to "test" video games. DREAM JOB


Wed, Aug 15, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

A great number of games suck. Playing games as a job doesn't sound like fun at all


Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

Dream on. A fool and his money soon go separate ways.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

What do you call someone who you have to pay to go on date with you? How loyal or committed are they gonna be once the grant money runs out?


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

More SPARK vaporware jobs. Let's see how long they stay in Michigan. And after they depart how long SPARK will continue to claim them as jobs created... but not yet created.

Frank Lee

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Better late than never guys. I posted this story on's Community Wall on Jul 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM and forwarded it via email. 2.5 weeks later we get the "news".


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

More Jobs? Hopefully


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

The Nelson Family of Companies Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides direct placement and contract staffing services. Gary D. Nelson Associates Inc. (Nelson Family of Companies) and WorkforceLogic, Inc. announced that Ron Mester was recently elected to the Board of Directors. Bloomberg Business Week 4/13/12


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

"Gary D. Nelson Associates Inc. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced that three companies were approved for incentives by the Michigan Strategic Fund through the Michigan Business Development Program to support their expansions in the state. The projects are expected to generate up to $37.1 million in investments and add 232 new jobs in Michigan. WWJ Newsradio 950–2012/07/25" CBS Detroit


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

GARY D. NELSON ASSOCIATES, INC. – Grant for Job Creation Approval Date: 06/13/2012 Location: Ann Arbor Projected Investment: Up to $1.2 million Projected Jobs: 110 New Jobs Projected Incentive Amount: Up to $400,000


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

"Specific performance benchmarks for the grant are not available yet" So, they will BECOME available at some point, right? Can we get a followup on this? And from these following three quotes: 1) "Ann Arbor SPARK worked with Nelson on securing what the MEDC said is a one-time grant from the city" 2) "No grants for the company have come before the City Council" 3) "Representatives from Ann Arbor SPARK declined to comment" I guess I can gather that SPARK's getting a grant from the city to give to this company, but it hasn't actually even come before council yet (so, what...SPARK has enough influence that they can just promise stuff and assume it'll work out when it DOES go before council? Or it doesn't even HAVE to go before council?), and SPARK will not explain any of the above to the general public, apparently because the company moving in doesn't want the details known. So, great news about a new company moving in, I suppose, except for how shady this all seems, and how we gave a bunch of money to some other auto place that wound up not doing at all what they projected they would.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

Nice to see a job recruiter for the gaming industry expand to become a "Video game testing and development company" with a little government funding in the land of the undead.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:26 a.m.

SPARK claiming things that aren't supported by facts. Where have I seen that before?