Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone

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​Marti Praschan,


734.794.6500 x45100

In 2001, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) created eleven separate SmartZone throughout the state, including Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti. The purpose of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone (LDFA) is to provide capital needed for the facilitation of the commercialization of research products being developed at University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University and the development of private high technology enterprises that, but for this organization, would be deferred, or located outside of the SmartZone area. 

The SmartZone is the programmatic name given by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to a district established under state law (“a certified industrial park”). The district is technically called the Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA), but these terms are interchangeable. The SmartZone is equal to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) district in the City of Ann Arbor and a portion of a DDA district in Ypsilanti. The purpose of the district is established by the following foundational documents.  


The SmartZone is funded from the State of Michigan, and without the SmartZone, these monies would otherwise not be received locally. The formula for determining the amount which the State will invest in the SmartZone is determined via a tax capture. Presently, the tax capture revenue is collected only within the geographic boundaries of the Ann Arbor DDA, since the portion in the Ypsilanti DDA is being used for other purposes. The tax capture is based on the increase in taxable value due to new development and appreciation above the base year of 2002. These dollars come from taxes committed to schools and are, by law, repaid to the local school district by the state so their funding remains whole. So in effect, the State funds the LDFA.

Board of Dire​​ctors

The governing body, known as the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (LDFA) consists of a nine-member board of directors of which six members are appointed by the Ann Arbor City Council and three members are appointed by the Ypsilanti City Council. The LDFA operates under a set of bylaws that were initially approved by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti City Councils. Proposed changes or amendments to the bylaws are adopted by the LDFA's Board of Directors and submitted to the Ann Arbor City and Ypsilanti City Councils for approval.

Current Board

Stephen Rapundalo, Chair , Ann Arbor, Term Expires 5/31/2027
Carrie Leahy, Vice Chair, Ann Arbor, Term Expires 6/30/2024
Heather Grisham, Treasurer, Ann Arbor, Term Expires 6/30/2025
Phil Tepley, Ypsilanti, Term Expires 6/30/2024
Caryn Charter, Ypsilanti​, Term Expires 6/30/2025
Jenn Cornell, Ann Arbor Council Member, Term Expires 6/30/2024
Annie Sommerville, Washtenaw County, Term Expires 6/30/2023
Michael Psarouthakis, Ann Arbor, Term Expires 6/30/2024​​
Michele, Merusi, WCC, Term Expires 06/30/2025

Ex-Officio Board Members     

Marti Praschan, City of Ann Arbor
Katie Jones, City of Ypsilanti   

Bill Mayers, Ann Arbor Spark       
Fredrick Molnar, MEDC 

The time and location of meetings​ are published through the City of Ann Arbor’s normal meeting notification process and are available online.

​The SmartZone is included in the City of Ann Arbor’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report​ ​as a Component Unit, and therefore, its financial statements are audited.


SmartZone has spent its money pursuing the items identified in its Foundational Documents. Specifically, it has supported the following activities in the City of Ann Arbor:

  • Business Incubator – capital and operating support.
  • Business Acceleration Support and Services – due diligence, intensive services, supporting accelerating opportunities.
  • Entrepreneur education.
  • Business networking.
  • Business software access for clients.
  • Marketing.
  • Administrative services – accounting, legal, etc.
  • Grants as approved by the Board

Ann Arbor Spark

Rather than hire and create a separate organization, the SmartZone Board has historically contracted with outside entities to perform services. The largest service provider has been Ann Arbor SPARK. Ann Arbor SPARK is a regional economic development non-profit organization dedicated to economic prosperity of the Ann Arbor region. It receives both public and private funds to achieve its mission.