Detroit Homecoming: A ‘Welcome Back’ for Some of our Greatest Expats

Each year since it began in 2014, Detroit Homecoming has welcomed back Detroit expats who have achieved remarkable success in their professional lives. The annual event aims to sustain the momentum of revitalizing Detroit, while generating resources in support of the work and projects underway. Its mission is to reconnect, reacquaint and inspire Detroit expats to participate in revitalizing our (and their!) great city.

Building Detroit Homecoming into a premiere annual event has taken tremendous work by the event’s organizers. Colleen Robar, APR is founder of Robar PR, which has produced Detroit Homecoming each year since its inception. Mary Kramer, group publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business, is director of the event. It has taken considerable behind-the-scenes efforts – all things from thorough research using Google, LinkedIn and local university alumni associations to identify notable Detroit expats who should be invited as speakers and guests, to finding an appropriate venue.

Their diligent search has paid off each year, with speakers and attendees such as Berry Gordon, founder of Motown Records; Bob Woodruff, ABC News correspondent; Draymond Green, 3x NBA Champion and All-Star; and many more.

One of many fascinating aspects of Detroit Homecoming is the thoughtful choice of venue. Kramer is dedicated to hosting the event in buildings that have cultural significance in Detroit, even if at the time of selection, the building is dilapidated and will require redevelopment. Such was the case for Detroit Homecoming III in 2016, which was held in the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center. At the time of selection, the former rec center did not have working bathrooms.

But one of their favorite venues to date, according to Robar, was that of Detroit Homecoming IV: The Michigan Central Station. One of the most recognizable buildings in Detroit history, the Michigan Central Station had been closed since 1988. Detroit Homecoming IV was the first event held there in 30 years and very possibly influenced Ford’s decision to buy the building in 2018, Robar explained.

While hosting the event successfully in the iconic trains station was one of many achievements Detroit Homecoming has seen in its five years of existence, the format has remained steady during that time. This year will bring evolution and expansion, which Robar and Kramer are excited to offer. A couple new elements include opening the event up to more participants, with some aspects being exclusively reserved for expats, and offering specific tracks, such as real estate, entrepreneurship, FinTech, and mobility. Stay tuned to Crain’s Detroit Business for more details later this year.

As for Detroit Homecoming VI speakers, Kramer and Robar are open to suggestions. One speaker they would love to have is Keegan-Michael Key. If you have a suggestion, or if you have the amazing privilege of being friends with Keegan-Michael Key and don’t mind putting a good word in, feel free to reach out to them!

Jeff Adkins is a public relations specialist with Henry Ford Health System, and a member of both PRSA National and PRSA Detroit.