Ann Arbor SPARK and the Economic Development Council of Livingston County held their annual meeting updating stakeholders on progress and trends in the community.

Since 2012, Ann Arbor SPARK has partnered with EDC to encourage and support business acceleration, attraction, and employee retention. Wednesday evening they held their annual meeting at Crystal Gardens Banquet Center in Genoa Township.

It began with EDC Board Chair James Wickman paying respects and offering a moment of silence for former Livingston County Administrator and EDC Vice-Chair Ken Hinton, who passed away suddenly, last month. Hinton was slated to take over as EDC Chair next year. SPARK President and CEO Paul Krutko then spoke, sharing that since 2012 they have helped create over 6,000 new and retained jobs, and brought in $81-million in additional annual wages from job growth to new workers. Director of Business Development for Livingston County, Marcia Gebarowski then highlighted 3 successful businesses from the past year- being Hatch Stamping, Pop Daddy popcorn, and Asahei Kasei Plastics.

The keynote speaker was Michele Ureste from the Michigan Workforce Intelligence Network, or WIN. She demonstrated to the crowd on hand the extent of the labor shortage in Michigan. Comparing the number of jobs openings to the number of degrees and certificates completed across the state, Ureste estimates that more than 800,000 jobs will go unfilled between now and 2024. She said that they are predicting all occupations, including I-T and advanced engineering, are going to experience 16% growth by 2029, with that equating to roughly 9,000 annual job openings in Livingston County per year. One way that she says WIN is helping to prepare businesses for this need for talented workers, is through expanding their apprenticeship programs. She said they have already received national recognition for their best practices in that area. (MK)