Franco prez leaves to start hi-tech shop

DETROIT: Franco Public Relations co-owner and president Lisa Vallee-Smith has left the firm to start her own hi-tech PR shop, Airfoil Public Relations.

DETROIT: Franco Public Relations co-owner and president Lisa Vallee-Smith has left the firm to start her own hi-tech PR shop, Airfoil Public Relations.

DETROIT: Franco Public Relations co-owner and president Lisa

Vallee-Smith has left the firm to start her own hi-tech PR shop, Airfoil

Public Relations.



Vallee-Smith will take nine existing Franco tech accounts with her. She

expects to bill dollars 1.2 million - about half of what Franco reported

in 1999 - in her first year. Airfoil has already picked up one new

client, technology incubator Smart-Detroit.



’The new company has mostly to do with speed, the need for speed’ in

responding to the demands of technology clients, said Vallee-Smith.

’These clients require that you set up an entity that is as much like

them as possible in terms of moving quickly and responding rapidly to

changing market conditions.’



Dan Ponder, the other Franco owner, said he expected the agency’s fee

income this year to exceed the 1999 take of dollars 2.4 million even

after the departure of the nine tech clients to Airfoil. The two firms

will continue to collaborate on some business, he said.



Ponder becomes the sole owner of Franco and assumes the president duties

Vallee-Smith is leaving behind. Five of the firm’s employees will join

Airfoil, leaving 25 at Franco. While Franco will continue to pursue

clients that use technology in their businesses, Airfoil will

concentrate on hi-tech companies.



Among the clients moving to Airfoil is Microsoft’s Great Lakes

District.



Liz Siver, the company’s senior marketing specialist, applauded the

creation of the new agency: ’A lot of the PR needs we have as a tech

company are for instant turnaround.’ Siver added that Airfoil will adopt

more of a regional focus than Franco, which concentrates on Detroit.



A long-time fixture on the Detroit PR scene, Franco was the largest

Detroit-based agency to report fee income to PRWeek this year, ranking

143rd nationally.



But in recent years, firms such as Eisbrenner PR - which doesn’t

disclose its size - and several newer shops have often overshadowed

Franco on the Motor City PR front.



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