CEO involvement in urban revitalization has a long tradition. In 1982, for example, E. Mandel de Windt, CEO of Eaton Corporation, was part of a group of local executives spearheading an effort to rebuild Cleveland. More recently, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert have helped bring new life to parts of Baltimore, Las Vegas and Detroit.
Less heralded has been the impact of Shinola, which opened its Detroit watch factory in 2011. As journalist David Sax recounted in The Revenge of Analog, Shinola started up when Tom Kartsotis, founder of Fossil, “realized that Detroit had untapped luxury potential, and a ‘Made in Detroit’ watch brand had much more upside than a factory making watches for other companies.” At present, Shinola has 625 employees, 350 in Detroit, with 200 of those working in manufacturing and the rest in the front office.
Part of the secret of Shinola’s now almost legendary success is its current CEO, Tom Lewand. Detroit born and bred, Lewand is the former president of the Detroit Lions and was key to that team’s move back home from the suburbs in 2002. For him, he says, “it’s really about being a person in a position of influence in any company that’s involved in contributing to the community to create jobs. It’s a tide that lifts all ships, a welcome mat for people looking
to come back to a community. It’s another type of bottom line for CEOs to focus on.”