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Support for SPARK helps Ypsilanti entrepreneurs, employers

Ann Arbor SPARK’s hub for entrepreneurial services in Ypsilanti, SPARK East, recently received funding to support its continued work to help businesses start-up and grow. SPARK also received support for expanded collaborative efforts with Eastern Michigan University (EMU) that are centered on entrepreneurial development and talent initiatives that meet the demand from regional employers.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC) recently awarded Ann Arbor SPARK $350,000 in funding to support the SPARK East business incubator. The funding, which is being matched by Ann Arbor SPARK’s public-private regional partnership, provides operational support for SPARK East and collaborative efforts with Eastern Michigan University (EMU). 

Washtenaw County, through the Office of Economic and Community Development, is a key member of the partnership and support for SPARK East has been spearheaded by District 6 County Commissioner Ronnie Peterson.

“MEDC’s support helps Ann Arbor SPARK continue SPARK East’s existing activities, which is focused on increasing entrepreneurship in Ypsilanti,” said Ann Arbor SPARK president and CEO Paul Krutko. “The funding will also work to increase Ann Arbor SPARK’s collaboration with EMU on its technology transfer and Center for Digital Engagement activities.”

“There’s no doubt that Ann Arbor SPARK and SPARK East are an important resource in eastern Washtenaw,” said Ronnie Peterson, commissioner, District 6, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. “SPARK East helps this community leverage the incredible resource that is Eastern Michigan University, and is a valuable asset in helping Ypsi attract new business to downtown.  I’m very pleased to be a part of sustaining this key community asset.”

Ann Arbor SPARK collaborates with EMU to assist entrepreneurial development, including work with the College of Business, College of Technology, Center for Entrepreneurship, the Art Department, and several student organizations. An example of this partnership includes Ann Arbor SPARK’s work with the College of Business to provide students an opportunity to work with local start-ups.

MEDC’s funding will support a new collaborative effort between Ann Arbor SPARK and EMU’s Center for Digital Engagement. The two-year project will create a repeatable, clinical program in digital sales and marketing operations targeted towards select post-secondary students. Working with regional employers, Ann Arbor SPARK identified that businesses are seeking employees that have these specific skills.

The community partners that will match MEDC’s funding are Eastern Michigan University, the City of Ypsilanti, the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, Ypsilanti Township, and Washtenaw County.

“Ann Arbor SPARK’s work is focused on strengthening the entire region’s economy, and Ypsilanti is a critical part of this region,” Krutko continued. “When we consider the cost of doing business, the facilities and infrastructure that are unique to Ypsilanti, and that the community has very distinct opportunities, Ann Arbor SPARK’s role to encourage jobs and investment becomes apparent.”
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