paula gardner column: Deals of the Year 'not just to reward, but also to inspire' Ann Arbor area
Related story: Images from AnnArbor.com's Deals of the Year
Leaves are turning, the clock is rolling back and temperatures are falling, but at AnnArbor.com we’re calling the season “Deals of the Year” time.
It’s our annual fall event when we present awards to key businesses and business leaders in seven sectors, as well as a Company of the Year and an Executive of the Year honor. These awards represent the best of Ann Arbor area business success.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
About 425 people gathered at Eastern Michigan University on Friday night to celebrate.
This year was the 8th time that we’ve presented the awards, first via Ann Arbor Business Review and now through MLive Media Group and AnnArbor.com.
I’m proud to have been a part of it since the beginning. It’s fun to put on an Academy Award-style event - and around the office, we’ve come to call the event “our prom.”
But the purpose goes beyond honors and celebration: The place of these Deals of the Year awards in this community is not just to reward, but also to inspire.
In the first few years, the inspiration was toward continued achievement as risk seemed low and opportunity was abundant.
In the months after the community reeled from the loss of Pfizer, we awarded the Executive of the Year award to the director of the site, David Canter.
The inspiration he provided stemmed from his unique ability to show Ann Arbor that it had the capacity to mobilize around the opportunities created by the loss. We could regenerate the jobs; we could reuse the property; we could renew a broader commitment to social causes and make up the difference in corporate donations.
Here’s what I wrote at the time:
“I’m not sure that anyone can identify the precise moment when we replaced panic with action. But I’m certain that David Canter was at the center of it.
“Today, Ann Arbor is not waiting for a solution to the Pfizer departure.
“We are creating that solution on a daily basis as the successful businesses and focused public bodies that make up this region take action. We are deciding what should be our fate, such as more jobs and a sustainable business base in the New Economy, and we are making it happen.”
We were making it happen a year later when the economy dropped into a freefall, and I remember telling the crowd in 2009 that we could be inspired by the nominees that night because they were steeled against the change and forging ahead. That remained true a year later, as the community unrelentingly aimed toward recovery.
This year, the nation is waiting for results from the presidential election as we grow accustomed to the terms “cautiously optimistic” and “modest growth.”
That may be true on a national level: Many of us learned to temper optimism with caution over the past few years, knowing that so many factors must realign before we can comfortably conclude that we’ve reached economic recovery.
But locally, the signs are more distinct: This region is driving significant economic activity.
We see in among the nominees in each sector, like commercial real estate, which boasts three of the strongest contenders that I’ve seen in the category. There’s a mortgage company that’s growing exponentially in an industry that’s been rocked with upheaval; a local property management company that gathered investors during a downturn and grew its portfolio and scope; and a massive private construction project that’s driving downtown spending.
That kind of success extends across all of the categories, in turn rippling across the Ann Arbor community, increasing economic activity, and serving as the basis of our rebound.
It can be easy to accept these achievements around us without noting that, as a community, we’re generating something remarkable in Michigan.
It’s my hope that through “Deals of the Year” we all can take this seasonal look at the successes around us and, in turn, feel inspired to take the steps that grow it further.