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Knowledge is Power For Ann Arbor’s Business Climate

Learn how highly skilled talent is fueling Ann Arbor’s strong economy.

By Teree Caruthers on January 6, 2020

Ann Arbor

With access to one of the nation’s premier research universities, affordability and an enviable quality of life, Ann Arbor is one of the best places to live. In fact, Ann Arbor claimed the No. 1 spot on Livability. com’s 2018 Best Places to Live ranking.

That strong appeal not only draws top talent to the region of 562,000 residents, but business investment as well.

“Ann Arbor is a desirable place to live – from parks to world-class cuisine to entertainment options, the region has a lot to offer those who live here – but it’s also a great place to work and to do business,†says Jenn Cornell Queen, vice president of marketing and communications for Ann Arbor SPARK, the region’s leading economic development engine.

Tech-Savvy Region

“Ann Arbor has an incredibly robust tech ecosystem, a density of high-tech businesses that offer a density of opportunities for networking and jobs,†Queen says.

“Compared to other high-tech destinations, the cost of doing business in Ann Arbor is incredibly affordable, which is attractive to businesses. Ann Arbor also offers an incredible range of support services to growing businesses and has made a commitment through incentives and grants to support business formation and growth.”

The region has forged a reputation as a high-tech hub, particularly in automotive, mobility, information technology, life sciences and health care sectors, which continue to grow in the area.

“Mobility is a huge growth area in our region as we tap into our automotive heritage. We’ve shown a commitment to the future of the industry’s success here by investing in the creation of the American Center for Mobility. And IT in general continues to grow, as does research and development,†she says.

Ann Arbor, MI: KLA
Ann Arbor / KLA

Ready for Work

Queen attributes the region’s economic growth to access to infrastructure and talent at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University as well as a region and state “willing to incentivize growth.†These advantages are what attracted California-based KLA, a global capital equipment company, to Ann Arbor to build an R&D facility.

The company started with a long list of potential markets before narrowing it to 12 in a detailed way, says John McLaughlin KLA executive site lead for Ann Arbor.

“Then we had three finalists,†he says. 

“Ann Arbor rose to the top primarily because of the talent pipeline. We wanted to start a second large site in North America, and we looked for a place where we could attract engineering talent. That’s why we landed so close to the University of Michigan. Plus, the local tech ecosystem is growing very quickly, and that was a huge draw as well. It’s exciting to be near so many tech startups in Ann Arbor and to be adding to that ecosystem.”

Ann Arbor

People Place

McLaughlin says another factor in the company’s location decision was Ann Arbor’s quality of life.

“We wanted to be in a place that was attractive. We wanted to be in a place that works for young professionals as well as people who are raising a family, and people who might be thinking about retiring someday. Ann Arbor checks all of those boxes,†he says.

“There is a cultural richness to Ann Arbor, and we think that’s going to really help us recruit,†McLaughlin says.

“We’ve already seen it. We’ve been aggressively going after candidates both locally and outside of Michigan, and (quality of life) is a big factor.”

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