Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reflecting on 8 Years with Detroit Synergy

It all started back in 2003, for me.

On the set of "Checking In"
At the time, I was working on a feature-length documentary entitled Checking In: The Story of the Book-Cadillac Hotel, which focused on the historic Book-Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit. The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, which was the quasi-governmental agency that was working on redeveloping the hotel, wouldn't talk to me on camera about the project so I turned to some of the historic preservation groups, who were all too happy to talk about the hotel.

Back then, I had already decided that I was going to leave Detroit permanently as soon as this project was done. Regardless, during that time, I met Francis Grunow. He invited me to attend a meeting of this new group called Detroit Synergy. I was hooked after that first meeting. I met so many people who had such energy, enthusiasm, and determination to get things done.

I got involved in organizing a pub crawl where I met a man who often seems more like a force of nature than a human being, the legendary Alok Sharma. At one point, Alok asked me if I knew how to write a press release. I told him that I had written several for different political campaigns that I had worked on over the years. He asked me to draft one for this pub crawl.

Everyone at Detroit Synergy seemed to love my work. They kept asking me to do more.

Ain't No Party Like A Detroit Party
As for the pub crawl that we organized, it was truly legendary. Imagine, if you will, close to 400 people bouncing from one bar to the next in downtown Detroit. Most of the people on this pub crawl were young professionals. Some of them were even inspired to move to Detroit based on how much their experience downtown surpassed their expectations.

Eventually, I was invited to apply one of the two public relations slots on Detroit Synergy's Steering Team, which is their leadership team/board of directors. The first time I applied for that position, they actually turned me down - opting instead to bring Paula Turner onto the team. I applied again in the summer of 2004 when another vacancy occurred on the Steering Team.

This time around, I was able to join their Steering Team in September, 2004 as one of the public relations co-chairs. I ended up working closely with Paula for a couple of years before she left the team to pursue other interests.

Over the next few years, I:

  • Was a part of seven more truly legendary pub crawls;
  • Got to dance on the field during the Super Bowl XL Halftime Show;
  • Helped the group get media coverage not only with the local news media, but with CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and the Italian news media as well;
  • Helped organize the group's Shop Detroit, which brought people from as far away as Toledo to do at least a portion of their holiday shopping in downtown Detroit;
  • Worked with a variety of developers to market their residential properties; and
  • Helped the group get the publicity they needed to launch new projects like Detroit Bikes, Pecha Kucha Night, and Supper Club.
In February 2009, I decided that it was time for a change. I transitioned from their public relations role to the fundraising one where I got to work more closely on the group's fundraising efforts.

One of Detroit Synergy's Meetings
It has been a fantastic voyage. However, like all great voyages, there comes a point where it is time for it to end.

Detroit Synergy today has an amazing group of people who remain on its Steering Team. The team is smaller in number than it was when I joined back in 2004. However, in my opinion, they are stronger than have been at any point in the group's history. They are perfectly prepared to not only continue on the group's nine year old legacy, but to take it to the next level. I'm excited for the group and for myself.

As for me, I'm taking some time away to finish some work projects. Regardless, I will still serve as project lead for their Pecha Kucha Night and I'm sure I will find some other capacity to serve as well, just not on the Steering Team.

It's been a great 8 year voyage with Detroit Synergy. I'm thrilled with what we managed to accomplish and I look forward to seeing a lot more from my successors in the organization.

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