When pharmaceutical giant Pfizer closes its 2 million-square-foot Plymouth Road facility next year, the city of Ann Arbor will lose its single largest taxpayer and largest private employer.
And many non-profit organizations will lose one of their biggest sponsors.
Kenneth Fischer, president of the University Musical Society, said Pfizer’s corporate contributions, the Pfizer-purchased tickets for UMS events and matching employee donations, totaled about $350,000 each year.
“We’re going to miss them,” Fischer said. “This is a company that had been great supporters of the UMS and exemplary corporate sponsors.”
Still, Fischer said he was optimistic about seeking out future donors and corporate sponsors.
He said the loss of Pfizer has influenced local organizations like UMS to increase fundraising efforts and encouraged local businesses to consider supporting local organizations and events.
“Some of it was our being proactive and seeking out other sources of funding,” Fischer said. “And some of it was the companies themselves – the businesses of Ann Arbor and the surrounding community – asking ‘What can I do?’ “
The Ann Arbor Summer Festival, a series of performances at the Power Center, also benefited from Pfizer’s presence in the city. Pfizer made large annual donations to the show and purchased substantial amounts of tickets for employees.
Robb Woulfe, executive director of the festival, called Pfizer one of the festival’s “major” sponsors and said his organization is already feeling the effects of the company’s departure.
“It’s been challenging to put together a budget for the upcoming festival without Pfizer’s contributions,” Woulfe said.
Woulfe estimated that Pfizer contributed between $75,000 and $80,000 each year to the Summer Festival.
Woulfe said the festival’s organizers plan to step up fundraising efforts by marketing more aggressively, offering naming rights opportunities to businesses and attracting more individual sponsors.
“I think we really have a solid plan in place to make up for the loss of Pfizer’s contributions,” Woulfe said. “But now we need to be a bit louder about getting donations from the community at large.”
Donald Harrison, director of community and development for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, said his organization would look for new contributions from outside the Ann Arbor community to offset the loss of Pfizer’s contributions, which he said totaled between $5,000 and $10,000 annually.
Harrison said the film festival’s latest fundraising campaign has gotten off to a good start, aided by film festival advertisements in national magazines like Variety.
But he said replacing Pfizer’s donations will take time and hard work.
“Replacing (Pfizer’s) contributions is easier said than done,” Harrison said. “We’ll have to work extra hard to make up that money with other sponsors.”
For the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, its relationship with Pfizer was more than just donations and ticket purchases.
Jesse Bernstein, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, said his organization would miss the Pfizer employees that attended chamber-sponsored events and served on various chamber committees.
“We’ll be losing the brainpower of the Pfizer employees that worked with the Chamber of Commerce,” Bernstein said.
He said that Pfizer has pledged to continue in its role as a “Platinum Sponsor” until 2008, which gives Bernstein and his colleagues time to plan how they’ll recoup the losses resulting from Pfizer’s departure.
Despite losing an important community partner like Pfizer, Bernstein said he was confident in the ability of Ann Arbor’s economy to weather the storm.
“Pfizer’s decision is certainly a blow, but we’ve seen a lot of changes here in Ann Arbor,” Bernstein said. “This is another opportunity for us to evolve.”
– Chris Herring contributed to this report.