Jennifer Owens, Ann Arbor Spark’s vice president for business development, is charged with overseeing the organization’s efforts to attract and retain new businesses to the Ann Arbor region. Over this week, Owens is on a mission trip to California, meeting with companies with interests in Ann Arbor, companies that are looking for a high tech community to expand or locate as well as with University of Michigan graduates who have started a business on the west coast. We asked her to share her experiences with GLITR’s readers. Today, here’s Day Three.

During the past two days of my trip I kept on hearing the same Mark Twain quote from local residents, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  This is a pretty mild winter for a Michigan girl, but I am definitely longing for our 90 degree temperatures as I put on my coat and run into my first meeting right on the San Francisco Bay with 50 degree temperatures whipping in my face.  Even in the cold, it was a building, not the bay, which caused me to stop and marvel.  The technology center of SunPower Corporation is located in a former Ford manufacturing plant that has been completely revitalized into a techie paradise.  With large windows, skylights and solar panels on the roof, I imagined our soon-to-be vacant Willow Run plant in a similar fashion. Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard has really caused this publicly traded solar giant to take a look at the state.  I left not only being wowed by the company, but also wanting to learn more from their landlord about how he made this building transformation possible.  

My next stop was with another University of Michigan alum and powerful Bay Area intellectual property attorney, Jeff Schox of Schox Patent Group.  Schox’s business is booming not only with Bay Area companies, but also with a host of Michigan technology operations.  Since moving from Michigan and starting up his own firm in 2003, Schox has significantly grown his Michigan clientele.  He is actually more attractive as an attorney to Michigan entrepreneurs because of his proximity to California VCs.  Schox continues to give back to our local entrepreneurs with various speaking engagements in Michigan.  He also has hosted angel investor events at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Palmer House that he and his wife own and operate. 

 I sure hope the temperature rises tomorrow as I am off to an early start jam-packed with an array of more educational meetings.  

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  1. Jerry Willis says:

    Great visionaries leave the Midwest because it seems this region doesn’t take well to advancement. I am definitely the Unicorn in the room when I’m out of town, but not understood when I’m in Southeast Michigan. I am seriously beginning to think everyone is behind on the learning curve in my home region. My company, MySelfWorth, is loved by students, professionals, families, and friends… Getting those who fund everything “green” can’t see past bio-sciences. Here’s my link and tell me what you think.

  2. ken Schwartz says:

    Sounds like your seeing some excellent ideas for reusing some of our older buildings which can be upgraded into cool structures with intelligent and creative architecture. Nice report.

    Ken Schwartz
    County Commissioner