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NewCo highlights future of Detroit businesses

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq, and Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News
Detroit News managing editor Gary Miles speaks with members of NewCo, a collaboration of businesses and employees that aim to redefine business seminars, visits the offices of The Detroit News on Wednesday in Detroit.

A few decades ago, working for a newspaper meant producing stories and shooting and developing photos for the daily print edition. But things have changed drastically in a relatively short amount of time.

On Wednesday, The Detroit News welcomed a group of 10 curious people who got a sneak peek behind the scenes at what goes into creating news in the digital age. The newsroom was one of several stops for attendees of NewCo Detroit, a business festival taking place across the city this week.

"As much as people know about the Detroit News, it's always a good opportunity for us to reestablish who we are and where we're headed," said Gary Miles, managing editor of The Detroit News. "Our bread and butter has been print for so long and now it has moved to digital, so much that we are thinking digital first."

Curiosity is at the core of NewCo, which seeks to provide attendees with first-hand knowledge of how each of the participating businesses work day-to-day, but also, how current leaders are shaping the industries of tomorrow.

“NewCo’s mission is to identify and celebrate new kinds of companies – big and small – creating positive change in how they work, what they create in the world, and who they are as citizens of their community,” NewCo founder John Battelle said in a press release. “That is exactly the type of hopeful energy fueling Detroit.”

Attendees at the Detroit News session represented several industries, including public relations, marketing, management, sales and small business owners.

Detroiter Candice Meeks is days away from opening her art space called Craft Cafe Detroit. The 30-year-old entrepreneur said she wanted to be a part of NewCo Detroit because she wanted to see what other entrepreneurs were doing.

"I like to hear everybody's story," she said. "I wanted to see about other programs that are out there to help small businesses."

NewCo Festivals are different from traditional conferences because participants chose which companies they want to explore, then meet company founders and directors inside the company’s headquarters.

For some, like Gracie Xavier, the event provided a chance to get to know the city and the business landscape.

"I’m new to Detroit, so learning the rich history and making the connections when you are coming from the outside, I think it’s a great way to do that," said Xavier, the  director of Corporate and Economic Development Strategy for Global Detroit.

Detroit News Managing Editor Gary Miles takes a group from NewCo Detroit on a tour through the newsroom

Among the other Detroit companies participating are Shinola, TechTown Detroit, MOCAD, dPOP!, Detroit Bike Co., the Detroit Institute of Music Education and more. This year’s event, the fourth, included a special focus on women-led businesses.

dPOP! CEO Melissa Price led a session on culture-driven design while showing off the group’s bank vault work space in the former Federal Reserve bank on Griswold.

The one-hour talk “Why Culture Matters: Innovations In Workplace Design,” provided about 40 business professionals with a first-hand look at the creative space and offered tips for fostering a fun and productive work environment.

“We really love what we do and we like sharing it,” Price said. “You just open the doors and share your story and what you are doing. It’s a great opportunity for the community and other business people in the community to come in and see.”

The session was one of five Wednesday that Franco Public Relations Group President Tina Kozak planned to attend.

Kozak says the 52-year-old company, headquartered in General Motors Renaissance Center, is working on a plan to revamp its current space and better incorporate the company’s culture.

“I feel like it’s a treat for myself to be able to just do a day of thinking,” she said. “To be able to think innovatively and hear people from totally different backgrounds; you never know what idea you are going to come up with listening to someone talk about connected IT, space or where I’m going to be like ‘this is a really great idea to apply to a team or a client."

Launched as a passion project in 2012 by Battelle, a co-founder of Wired Magazine, NewCo has grown to include 14 festivals in cities across the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

“Business is undergoing a fundamental transformation. Our consumption-based model of capitalism is morphing into a more thoughtful, efficient and sustainable model,” Battelle said. “Like the other cities on NewCo’s global festival tour, Detroit inspires the world.”