Can Southeast Michigan’s Four Accelerators Play Nice With Each Other?

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breaks down to something like this: Detroit resents what it perceives as arrogance from Ann Arbor and all of the money and attention the town, home to the University of Michigan, commands.

Ken Nisbet, executive director of the university’s Technology Transfer Office, says people need to get over it. A major research university produces technologies and startups that naturally attract an ecosystem of investors, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled talent, he argues.

Ian Bund, chair of Plymouth Ventures, says he would invest in a Detroit startup in a heartbeat—if he could find a fundable company.

But Ann Arbor is a small town and it’s not clear whether any parts of the university’s economic development machine extend beyond the confines of its immediate community.

To generate true economic growth, I’d argue the region needs the density, infrastructure, and the brand name of a major city like Detroit. For all the negative press it receives, Detroit still remains key to the state’s economic revival.

‘Though Ann Arbor may feel relatively smug about its economic standing in Michigan, for Ann Arbor to truly flourish, it is somewhat dependent upon Detroit becoming a viable, attractive, and sustainable metropolitan area before it can reach its fullest economic potential,” Beringea’s Bocan says. “So it does make sense for Ann Arbor to work with Detroit but I think they have to choose their battles wisely—go for projects where their goals are aligned with those of Detroit.”

Many people are optimistic that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a former venture capitalist and Spark leader, could provide necessary leadership to pull together the region’s divergent economic clusters into a more cohesive unit.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there is a need for broad based regional cooperation” like BANSEM, says Mike Finney, a former Spark CEO who now heads Michigan Economic Development Corp. “If we had more of that collaboration throughout the state, we would be much more effective.”

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