Business Incentives

Eastern Washtenaw County Business Incentives

There are numerous economic development  incentives available to companies throughout Washtenaw County. Several are available through Ann Arbor SPARK.

In addition to these incentives, the Eastern Leaders Group has initiated several programs to assist new and expanding businesses in the eastern portion of the Washtenaw County:

SPARK East Business Incubator

Since its launch in 2008, the SPARK East Business Incubator has become a magnet for innovation-based businesses of every size and description – from entrepreneurs and start-ups to mid-sized companies. Here you’ll find work-ready office facilities equipped with the latest technology. Networking events and educational programs. And because the Incubator is part of the new Eastside Innovation Campus, you’ll have access to an amazing array of business development centers, consulting expertise and educational programs. All concentrated within a two block area of downtown Ypsilanti. All dedicated to your success.

Business Incubator tenants have the option of attending a monthly meeting with the SPARK East Expert Resource Board (ERB) – a group of experts in the fields of banking, finance, start-ups, marketing, sales, HR, and logistics. After presenting a five-minute report to board members and fellow entrepreneurs, you’ll receive a lightning round of feedback to help you stay on task and on target.

Business Space, Services, and Support

By combining crucial infrastructure with broad spectrum support services, the Incubator provides all the advantages of a dynamic business environment without costly overhead expenses.

Physical Tenant Resources include:

  • 15 cubicles, available with short- or long-term leases
  • Designated company phone number - VOIP system
  • Private T-1 internet connection
  • Full kitchen
  • Utilities
  • Two conference rooms
  • Access to copiers, fax machines, conference rooms, and cleaning services
  • Dedicated recruiting staff to identify job candidates
  • Nearby free parking
  • Preferred status for Mingle & Match talent events
  • Monthly meetings with the SPARK Expert Resource Board (ERB) – the ERB is comprised of experts in the fields of banking/finance/startups/marketing/sales/HR/logistics. Each entrepreneur provides a 5 minute report to the group of board members and fellow entrepreneurs and then receives a lightning round of 10 minutes of feedback and suggestions. This will infuse new ideas and keep the entrepreneur focused on their mile stones.
  • Access to Expert Office Hours – coffee chats hosted by ERB members
  • Inclusion in the Ann Arbor SPARK Power Lunch series
  • Free admittance to the Entrepreneur Education 1.0: Launch and the Entrepreneur Education 2.0: Growth program series

      Cost: $250/month for cubicle space

Amenities for Virtual Tenants

For entrepreneurs who do not require full time space, a shared office environment which includes the use of the Incubator’s technology and facilities is available. Privileges include:

  • Mail receipt
  • Use of conference rooms and networking/hoteling space
  • Preferred status for Mingle & Match talent events
  • Open invitation to Expert Office Hours coffee chats, hosted by ERB members

      Cost: $95/month


215 W. Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 (8,000 square feet)

Who is eligible?

You are, if (1) your business is an innovation start-up or (2) your company’s technology is applicable to health care, life sciences, biotechnology, or a related field. In addition, the business must be focused on commercialization and based on an idea or technology that has defensible value (e.g., a patent, trade secrets, copyrights, know-how, etc.). For a complete list of criteria, visit our Incubator FAQs.

Apply now through our Business Accelerator Business Idea Submission form.

Learn more! If you are interested in learning more about the Incubator and the application process, contact:

Lori Emerson
Business Accelerator and Incubator Coordinator
Office: 734.527.9153

SPARK East Micro Loans

Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor SPARK have agreed to establish the Eastern Washtenaw Microloan Fund (the Fund). The mission of this fund is to support innovative, high-growth start-up companies throughout eastern Washtenaw County as they near commercial viability. The focus is on companies that are creating innovative ideas and solutions in the areas of:

  • Advanced automotive, manufacturing, and materials
  • Alternative energy
  • Homeland security and defense
  • Life sciences
  • Information technology
  • Web 2.0, social networking
  • B2B and B2C technology services and products

The purpose of the Fund is to accelerate company development by providing access to early-stage capital to extend the personal investment of entrepreneurs and their own finance network during the critical stage when they are developing their businesses to the point of readiness for outside investment and sales. Companies are required to participate in a due diligence investigation by Ann Arbor SPARK, thereby professionally identifying and addressing competitive, financial, regulatory and related risks through the screening process.

For more information

CEED Microloans

This micro loan program assists businesses who cannot obtain conventional financing. Funding from the County is used as a loan loss reserve fund leveraging and loans ranging from $500 to $50,000 to allow companies to realize growth in their products and services and to also create new jobs.

For more information or contact CEED directly:
Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED) - Headquarters
2002 Hogback Road, Suite 17-18
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
Office: (734) 677-1400
Fax: (734) 677-1465

Commercial Building - Renovation and Re-Use Grants

The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority and Washtenaw County Eastern Leaders Group have partnered to fund $60,000 in building rehabilitation grants for the W. Cross St. /Campus Town District of the DDA.  The program was created to address needed building improvements along the W. Cross St. commercial district.  The first round of applications occurred in the Fall of 2010 and awarded three grants of $10,000 each to the following projects:  

  •  729, 731, 733, and 735 W. Cross St. (formerly Ted’s Campus Drugs and Art Attack) - Complete building renovation, new store fronts and windows, restore existing masonry, and interior renovation.  The project will create one new retail/dining space and renovate 11 second floor efficiency apartments into four 2-3 bedroom apartments.  There will be a complete upgrade of all mechanical systems.  This building renovation will lead to new commercial store fronts on W. Cross and create five temporary construction jobs and an estimated eight full time jobs depending on the commercial tenant.  The project budget for this redevelopment is $577,000 and will lead to an estimated Real Property Tax assessment of $8,000.
  • 517 W. Cross (former Magazine Rack) – Conversion of vacant storefront into an expansion of Crossroads restaurant/lounge.  The grant will be used to help cover the costs of the new fire suppression system and the addition of a glass roll-down façade for 515 W. Cross St.  The budget for these improvements is $60,000-65,000.  It is estimated that this project will create 8-18 temporary construction jobs and 6-7 permanent jobs at the lounge upon completion.
  • 701 W. Cross St. (Tower Inn Restaurant) -Complete façade renovation of the property and expansion/improvements to the outdoor patio area. This project has a budget of $30,000.  It will create an estimated six temporary construction jobs and six permanent restaurant jobs upon completion. 

The second round of applications will occur in the Spring of 2011. For more information, contact Tim Colbeck, DDA Executive Director at 734-482-1410 or at

Eastern Washtenaw County - Gap Financing

Between 2001 and 2008, Washtenaw County lost almost 14,000 manufacturing jobs. This job loss has resulted in high unemployment rates and loss of per capita income and tax base. In an effort to offset these negative impacts, the Eastern Leaders Group has initiated several job creation programs. These include the SPARK East Incubator, SPARK East micro loan program, the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development micro loan program and the Commercial building renovation grant pilot program.  The Gap Financing Pilot Program is one additional tool that the County can use to replace job loss in the eastern side of the county. 

The Gap Financing Pilot Program provides additional funding to manufacturing companies that wish to expand their operations. It is intended to supplement company investment and bank financing for eligible expansion costs including the purchase of equipment or inventory, facility enhancements and other company expansion expenditures not to include working capital or refinancing. Gap financing can be provided in the form of a grant or a no interest loan. The program is considered to be a pilot program due to the limited amount of funding available at this time and the desire of the ELG to track program performance.  $30,000 is available for financing company expansions and funding will be based on number of jobs created in the expansion.

 Companies must meet the following criteria before applying for funding:

  • Be located in eastern Washtenaw County, Michigan
  • Have the rights (ownership or license) to the expanded or new product
  • Expand a product line or create a new product line
  • Create new jobs in the Washtenaw County

 Example of Success

The Michigan Ladder Company, located in Ypsilanti, has used these funds to assist with expansion of their production capacity and product line. This company was recently featured in the online magazine, Concentrate. Check out the article here

 Could This Fund Work for Your Company?

For more information, contact Todd VanAppledorn, MI CEED, at to discuss company eligibility, funding available and application process and submittals.