Tag Archives: GM Renaissance Center

CEO Dan Ponder honored by Michigan State University as Alumni of the Decade

Franco’s CEO Dan Ponder’s wealth of business experience has led to many recent honors. Let me tell you what makes Dan such an amazing business person and mentor.

In addition to celebrating his 30th anniversary with Franco earlier this year, Dan was recently recognized as Michigan State University Broad College of Business Executive MBA Program’s Alumni of the Decade. An honor bestowed upon distinguished alumni who have made a significant and lasting impact on the program, their industry or in their communities, Dan was one of ten alumni recognized throughout the MBA program’s 50-year history.

Dan Ponder MSU Alumni of the Decade

Dan Ponder accepts the Alumni of the Decade award from Dean Sanjay Gupta. In a recent interview with The Detroit Free Press, Dan gives a detailed look at Franco’s past, present and future, as well as his role in the agency.

Dan Ponder has also recently been honored by the Michigan Youth Appreciation Foundation with the Corporate Hero Award for his support of Metro Detroit Youth Day and was named one of 2015’s Most Valuable Professionals by Corp! Magazine for his leading work at Franco Public Relations Group and in the city of Detroit.

Dan exemplifies Franco’s commitment to the community and leads by example serving on many nonprofit boards and committees, including serving as vice chairman of the St. John Providence Health System Board of Trustees including Human Resource and Physician Compensation Committee Chair; Executive Committee member, treasurer and finance committee chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber Board of Directors including serving on its Foundation Board and Audit Committee;  past chairman of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, inaugural chairman of its Energy, Telecommunications & Technology Committee, currently serving as treasurer of the MCC Foundation; past chairman of Crime Stoppers of Michigan Board of Directors, currently serving as Executive and Nominating Committee member; Salvation Army Metro Advisory Board; U.S. Army-SE MI Advisory Council; Ecumenical Theological Seminary Board of Directors; and member of the Detroit Athletic Club Audit Committee.

A modest leader, Ponder would much rather utilize his relationships to promote the news of his clients or employees than focus on his own accomplishments. But, behind the scenes Ponder is a driving force of Franco’s business development and operations.

Back at the Franco office located in the GM Renaissance Center, Dan is hands-on leader and can often be found working in his office with a door that’s always open.

If you’re so inclined, please take to Franco’s Facebook and Twitter and join me in congratulating Dan Ponder for his recent accomplishments!

Dan Stocking is an account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach him at (313) 567-5094 or stocking@franco.com. Follow him on Twitter @danielstocking.

An Employee’s Guide to the GM Renaissance Center

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting on your couch, watching TV, and b-roll of Detroit scenery flashes across your screen. The General Motors Renaissance Center is front and center in most of these images. “That’s Detroit!” you say either out loud or in your head…but how many of you have actually stepped foot inside this Detroit staple?

GM Renaissance Center

In preparation of this blog post, we decided it would be beneficial for me to take the official GM Renaissance Center tour. My tour had a family from Iowa, Grand Rapids, and Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotians traveled 25 hours JUST to visit Detroit!

While touring, I learned some of the basic facts. The Renaissance Center first opened its doors in 1976 with just one tower functioning – Tower 100. In 1977, the three other towers – 200, 300, and 400 – were opened. Franco Public Relations Group was lucky enough to become one of its first tenants shortly after that, and we have stayed ever since. It wasn’t until 1996 that General Motors decided to make the Renaissance Center its world headquarters. They quickly made some changes to the building, adding the Wintergarden, and level two, the circulation ring.

Ren Cen 100

The GM Renaissance Center is broken up into four levels. The first is level A; my favorite. It’s home to the massive food court, the Wintergarden, RenCen Fitness, Andiamo Detroit Riverfront, and of course the General Motors show room. The show room is in the middle of it all, almost as the building’s main event. You can see it from all levels.

I call level one the main floor. It’s where you will find the Marriott lobby, and its elevators.  Circulating level one is a brick paved inner circle that allows you to easily access all the stores and restaurants. Joe Muer, Pure Detroit, Potbelly, Verizon Wireless, and a PR pro’s best friend, Starbucks, all take shop on level one.

Level two is the circulation ring, creating a path to each tower’s main entrance and their visitor’s desk, which allows you to enter offices in their respected tower. Also on level two is a CVS, a post office, the skywalk to the Millender Center, and access to the Detroit People Mover.

Wondering how to get to the highly regarded restaurant, Coach Insignia? Take the glass elevator located on level three, all the way to the top floor, level 77. From there, you can see the entire view of the city, and it is nothing short of breath taking.

Yearning to know more? Here are my recommendations: Take a tour of the building, it’s completely free of charge, and you’ll learn so many interesting facts. Renaissance Center tours are offered at noon and 2 p.m. right outside of the Pure Detroit store. If touring isn’t your thing, then take a walk; get lost in the building! Or next time you’re visiting Franco Public Relations Group, let me know you would like a grand tour! There’s nothing I love more than showing people around.

Have you toured, or gotten lost in the Renaissance Center?  What cool or interesting facts did you learn when you visited? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Laura Skimin is an administrative coordinator at Franco Public Relations Group.

Surprises Learned from Working in the GM Renaissance Center

The GM Renaissance Center is big – it’s the largest building in the City of Detroit, is headquarters to one of the world’s largest automakers, houses a number of other businesses (including Franco Public Relations Group) and has more than 11,000 employees pass in and out of its doors every day. There are a few things I’ve discovered since I started working here in August 2011.

I remember being excited about the prestige of working in one of Detroit’s iconic buildings. I also remember being concerned about the size of the building and the number of people here and how that would affect my commute.  A big concern was the time it would take to get from my car up to the tenth floor of the 400 tower. I was really grateful when I discovered how efficient the building is for tenants – we have special access to elevators and can make it in the building and upstairs in about five minutes.

It’s like a small village. From shops, banks, restaurants, bars, clinics, daycare facilities, a salon and a post office – and, should you want to explore the city – there’s a People Mover Station and great spots like Greektown and Campus Martius are a short walk away. You also never know who you run into – I have bumped into a number of friends and relatives who work here. People I see regularly and others who I haven’t seen in years.

And when you need a break there are lots of places to discover inside and outside the building. From an ice cream break in the Wintergarden to the Riverwalk; both are an excellent way to take a few minutes away from your desk.

Have you worked in the GM Renaissance Center? What surprised you most about the building?

Ann Marie Fortunate is a senior account executive at Franco Public Relations Group.  You can reach her at (313) 567-5040 or fortunate@franco.com.  Follow her on Twitter @AMFortunate.


Re: View Detroit – Franco tours downtown one bite at a time

Motown, Hockeytown, the D, Motor City – we all know I’m talking about Detroit and I don’t know about you, but I’m awfully tired of our city being the poster-child for post-industrial demise. Instead, (as usual) I choose the “glass half-full” outlook; I look at this city through rose-colored glasses, seeing every misfortune as an opportunity for change, because after all, change is growth and growth is success.


So, every few weeks I’m going to break down the most popular neighborhoods in Detroit in an effort to highlight the hot spots and expose some hidden gems. I’m kicking off the series with the neighborhood Franco calls home: downtown.

Franco’s office has been located in the GM Renaissance Center since it was built in 1977 (and we’ve been downtown since we were founded in 1964!). Michigan’s tallest building, the RenCen is filled with places to eat, shop and stay and is located along the Detroit RiverWalk, an awesome place to grab lunch or take a stroll. The riverfront also plays host to numerous events when the Michigan weather decides to play nice.

One of my other favorite outdoor spots downtown is Campus Martius Park, the place I consider the heart of downtown. It’s located along Woodward Ave. and is a beautiful place to go in both the winter and summer months. The Campus Martius district alone is comprised of 20,000 office employees (and growing thanks to Dan Gilbert and the whole Detroit Venture Partners team), 750 residents, 50 retail shops and more than 35 places to get your eat on.

Speaking of food, here’s our Franco-complied list of must-taste foods in the downtown district:

  • Shawarma from Bucharest Grill – this is my personal favorite. Immediately after finishing one of these bad boys I want to rewind life so I can re-enjoy it. Most of my coworkers would agree.
  • Saganaki from Pegasus Taverna – who doesn’t love a little flaming cheese? This is my family’s go-to restaurant in Greektown.
  • Lafayette Coney Island – Sara Bloomberg says, “a coney, no onions and well done chili fries. A Bloomberg tradition on a hot, late summer night. We’d pack in the car and head downtown for a coney dog.” It’s always been Lafayette for me. What about you – American or Lafayette?
  • Paella at Vincente’s Cuban Cuisine – both Tina Kozak and Stephanie Casola noted this as one of their favorite dishes in Detroit. Tina says, “Paella at Vincente’s is the closest you can get to Spain. I’m a paella snob. I know this for certain.”
  • Burger at Honest John’s –We suggest the regular fixins (i.e. cheese, lettuce tomato). They don’t do fancy, but it’s one of the best burgers around.
  • I’ve also heard the newly revamped and reopened London Chop House is excellent – I’ve yet to dig deep into my pocketbook for that meal, though.
  • Sushi overlooking the Detroit River right here at Joe Muer Seafood in the RenCen. The view from both inside and on the patio is pretty amazing.
  • Finally, helloooo goat cheese mac during happy hour at Roast. And that Roast Burger with the Quail Egg. Don’t get me started.

We could go on, but let’s not. My mouth is watering.

If you’re looking to make your way around downtown, you should give the Detroit People Mover a whirl. It’s just 75 cents a ride and drops you just steps away from almost all of the downtown hot spots like Comerica Park, Ford Field, Detroit Opera House, Joe Louis Arena, Fox Theater, The Fillmore Detroit, Greektown (not just the casino), the GM RenCen and more. Or take a hike! Around the city that is. Unlike many other big cities, most of Detroit’s downtown attractions are within walking distance of each other.

Can’t get enough Detroit? If you hurry, you can snag the August City Guide issue of HOUR Magazine. It’s all about Detroit. In addition, here are some of my favorite sites to follow: Dig Downtown, Curbed Detroit, Positive Detroit and HuffPost Detroit.

Genna Young is an assistant account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach her at (313) 567-5014 or young@franco.com. Follow her on Twitter at @GennaYoung.