Unique Business Culture Draws Many Companies Into The Ann Arbor Region

Ann Arbor with a population estimated in 2012 at 116,121, has a scenic hill-and-valley landscape. It is nicknamed “Tree Town” for its 50,000 some trees. There are three area airports, one of which is Detroit’s metropolitan airport, and a well-planned regional/ interstate transit system. Its mega university campus bedecks the “streets and avenues” of Ann Arbor with “college town” ambience, and, yes, Ann Arbor has worked diligently to create an innovative and flourishing business culture.

Ann Arbor’s Impressive First Economic Tier

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is an institution of higher learning producing an astounding alumni in the arts, sciences, economics, biotechnology and business which include some of the top officers, chairman, founders and co-founders of many highly recognized American corporations. Its graduates can and do remain in Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas; there are high end and lucrative corporate positions eagerly awaiting them as well as entrepreneurial opportunities.

The economic magnitude of the University’s presence in the Ann Arbor area is stunning. It’s 3,100-plus acres, academic platform, on-campus housing and medical center alone galvanize Ann Arbor’s economic stability employing 30,000 in the university alone and 12,000 at the university medical center. There are other major corporate components in high tech, health services and biotechnology, as well as numerous medical offices, laboratories and companies in related fields that also nourish this city’s economy. Yet another aspect of the University’s domineering presence is its Research and Development funding that draws businesses to the Ann Arbor area.

Ann Arbor’s Impressive Second Economic Tier

Since no business in the Ann Arbor metropolitan area can boast a workforce of 42,000 as can the University, Ann Arbor’s impressive business community has to be viewed as “second-tier”. Among them General Motors and Visteon (a manufacturer of automobile electrical systems, parts and components); Hyundai America Technical Center (state-of-the-arts facility core research base); Masco Corporation; and Ford Motor Company Customer Service Division. Dominos, Inc., one of Ann Arbor’s oldest business acquaintances, now occupies a 241-acre Domino’s Farms Office Park in Ann Arbor. Many providers of the entire breadth of artificial intelligence as it pertains or is related to the electronic highway are a part of Ann Arbor’s business community and include: software and online services for the media; internet traffic engineering and security systems companies; producers of networking, security and storage products based on network appliances and cloud services; and websites and online media. Among them and headquartered in Ann Arbor is Google’s primary revenue stream, its AdWords product.

Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Alliance
During the period 2008-2010, the nation experienced a financial slump and downward spiraling economy that found many towns, cities and states across the nation hammering at economic survival strategies. It was in 2010 that the chambers of commerce of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor strategically merged as a Regional Chamber of Commerce boasting a then-member roster of 1,400, giving Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor with compatible business interests more leverage to sustain and continue economic growth. The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, now known as “A2Y Chamber”, is a successful alliance.


However, before the merger and perhaps as early as 2005, Ann Arbor had embraced a company known as Spark, co-founded by Rick Snyder, then business executive, venture capitalist, now Governor of Michigan (2011). Spark is an economic development “engine” that was given the responsibility of leveraging the region’s assets to drive growth and create jobs. It is a private-public company accepting donations from private concerns. As a not-for-profit, it derives its funding from the regional economic development agency; local municipalities including Ann Arbor; the University of Michigan, and other area universities. Spark utilizes an “incubator” concept in generating innovation, start-up and growth for businesses, and conducts job development and placement throughout the Ann Arbor region. Its portfolio currently appears to be start-up and entrepreneurial in the areas of: Life Science & Health Care; Alternative Energy & Cleantech; Advanced Manufacturing & Materials; IT, Software & Mobile Apps; Security & Defense; and Optics & Sensors. Spark, a name so befitting.

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