Display Group adds 4 people to prop biz in Corktown

Rick Portwood always dreamed of owning his own business while growing up and doing it in one of downtown Detroit's architectural jewels. Twenty some years later he has all but accomplished those two goals.

Portwood now owns Display Group, a set design and prop business he runs from a century-old industrial building turned chic loft office space overlooking Fort Street in Corktown. The 21-year-old company employs 18 people full-time, another dozen or so part-time and is looking at adding interns. It hired four people for sales and production work over the last year.

"I always liked downtown and like the city," Portwood says. "When I was 18 I always thought I would buy a building downtown and do business from it."

Portwood got his start while working after school for the family business called Display Creations in downtown Detroit. His cousin, who owned the business, talked him into taking the job seriously.

"He intrigued me because he knew I wanted to do my own thing," Portwood says. "He showed me the ins and outs it."

A few years later, Portwood's cousin sold the family business. That prompted Portwood to start Display Creations and build it into the business it is today. It does a lot of display work for retailers, along with displays for events, graphic work and lighting installation.

Display Group also recently leased out some of the space in its building to Birmingham-based creative agency, Pluto. The 5,000-square-foot office is classic loft-style office space with sweeping views of the Detroit River. Portwood would like to lease out some more of his building's space to other firms.

"I'm pretty optimistic," Portwood says. "There are certainly challenges in this region but I see opportunities. I feel more optimistic now than I have in the last 20 years."

Source: Rick Portwood, president of Display Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.