By Jessica Mathews /

The Livingston County Board of Commissioners has approved an agreement for economic development services for businesses and community partners.

The board met Tuesday night and approved a resolution authorizing a three-year agreement with the Economic Development Council in an amount not to exceed $175,000 per year, which contracts with Ann Arbor-based SPARK for services.

The motion was made by Commissioner Carol Griffith and supported by Brenda Plank. Board Chair Wes Nakagiri was opposed to the motion but didn’t offer any reason behind it. It was stated during the meeting that there were a few items raised during a previous discussion and those had been provided to the board, including 990’s for SPARK and a benchmark study.

The resolution states the partnership has generated new investment and job commitments in the county and it’s critical to recognize the need and value of a strong partnership that focuses on global competition and the attraction/retention of a high-value, knowledge-intensive workforce.

Commissioner Doug Helzerman commented that he’s very pleased with what Marcia Gebarowski and the SPARK team have done for the county and gave an overview of how the past board arrived at the $175,000 amount – noting the relationship didn’t start out without its bumps. He said following a transition period from prior EDC leadership and SPARK, Gebarowski was brought on as the county’s dedicated representative. Helzerman said to him, that’s made a huge difference in the relationship between the board and SPARK – adding he thinks she deserves a lot of credit and has done a lot of good work.

Commissioner Martin Smith echoed those comments and said he strongly encouraged continuing the relationship. Smith said they’ve seen how powerful the county association with SPARK can be, especially over the last 24 months. He noted Gebarowski and her team were instrumental in spreading the word about state and federal programs available to the business community and assisted them in obtaining funds to get through a very difficult and trying time. Smith added they also put on countless presentations to make sure various entities knew what resources were available to them.

The resolution states that the EDC will provide the board with quarterly reports highlighting the identity of current business and governmental partnerships, and their financial commitments to the SPARK contract.