Nightly News   |  April 30, 2013

Investors, entrepreneurs look to Motor City

Seeing an opportunity for growth, companies are moving to Detroit, Mich. Now the city’s rich history of manufacturing and design could make a comeback.  NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> finally tonight, americans can thank detroit for a lot. the city was the economic engine of our country and the war effort before hard times came to town. but because detroit is good at making things, that's exactly the opportunity some new businesses see now. our report tonight from nbc's john yang .

>> reporter: a ping-pong table, bean bag chairs , screens full of computer code . it looks like silicon valley , but it's the motor city . start-ups as old as the model "t."

>> in the two years we've been doing it, it's been incredible.

>> reporter: nathan and jay grew up in the detroit suburb.

>> four independent professionals.

>> reporter: last fall they moved their website,, from san francisco , seeing better opportunities for growth.

>> a ton of talent here. there's not a lot of web companies like us competing for their services.

>> reporter: entrepreneurs are also applying new technology to the city's mainstay industry, like the electric car , a company called detroit electric , hopes to begin making it in detroit this summer. this city has a rich history of quality manufacturing and design, and these days it's not just automakers who are boasting that their product is made in detroit . in the building where gm engineers designed the first corvette, a new company with an old name. in the 1940s , shinola was a shoe polish . now it's high-end bikes and wristwatches.

>> we're making the movements here, and we call that the engine of the watch, and what better city to make engines than detroit .

>> reporter: they could help remake detroit 's economy. they're already remaking the lives of workers. shinola's advertising campaign features willie holley who was once a security guard in the building. now he's the assembly line leader.

>> it means that i can actually, like, explore the option of, like, having a family, you know, supporting them.

>> reporter: five years ago assembly line worker lekishka lost her job to automation.

>> i don't think machines can do what we do. i mean, it takes -- a machine don't have passion.

>> reporter: a passion to do the painstaking work of building watches and rebuilding a city. john yang , nbc news, detroit .