Blue Sky Productions has been in business for nearly 20 years in both television and video production. The company is best-known for its award-winning weekly show Autoline This Week (formerly known as Autoline Detroit), which is broadcast nationally on the Speed Channel as well as on Detroit Public Television.
“The show is anything and everything to do with the auto industry,” says John McElroy, owner of Blue Sky Productions and host of Autoline. They’ll bring in auto industry experts for discussions as well as broadcast from different auto shows across the country (including Detroit’s own North American International Auto Show). Blue Sky also produces one-hour and half-hour-long television specials on the auto industry, video news releases and corporate videos, in addition to doing radio segments and webcasting—Blue Sky was a pioneer in video streaming technology.
McElroy started with the company in 1997 and became the sole owner about five years ago. “I spent most of my career in print but by the late-90s it became very obvious that print was going to go through some tough times,” he says. “The growth was really going to be in video and especially online. [So I left my old job] and plunged right into this!”
Blue Sky’s productions are focused entirely on the automotive industry, and some of their primary sponsors include Bridgestone, Dow Automotive and Chevrolet. They have four core shows that they produce in addition to conferences and auto shows. “I’ve always been interested in cars but was also interested in the industry itself and have been following it for some time,” explains McElroy. Big Sky’s focus on all things auto-related is simply a matter of expertise. “That’s my area of expertise,” he states. “When in Rome, do as the Romans, and when in Detroit, do automotive!”
Because of McElroy’s familiarity with the industry and its ebbs and flows, Blue Sky was able to weather the storm of the recession quite well. “We hit the end of 2007 and I had a real bad feeling that things were going to go from great to terrible,” he says. “I had been through this before, I knew the drill – you hoard every dollar that you have and create as much liquid cash as possible. We all took paycuts, slashed spending and hunkered down. Sure enough when things got really bad we were able to get through without any problems and kept a nice cash balance at all times.”
McElroy’s ability to manage the company so prudently during what many claimed was Michigan’s worst recession in recent memory caught other people’s attention. The bank actually approached him and asked if he was interested in buying a building. “They liked the way the company was being run. We had (and still have) no debt and we made it through the big collapse.” So basically the bank came to him and said, “If you’re interested in owning a building we’ll loan you the money,” which still shocks McElroy. “It was rather astonishing!”
The loan was issued through Oakland County’s SBA (Small Business Association) Loan Program. “I worked through the Oakland County people, and they were extremely helpful,” he states. “I was concerned at first because I live in Wayne County and our prior offices were in Wayne; I thought I wasn’t necessarily going to get any help from Oakland County and was very pleased and surprised at just how cooperative they were.”
And so he bought a building in Farmington Hills and moved in just a couple of months ago. Blue Sky Productions continues to grow, having added multiple new live webcasts and a daily newscast just over the last couple of years. After a few years of turmoil, it seems that the business is coming back. “People forget how bad things were in this town in the early ‘80s; it was almost as bad as it is now. We saw another downturn in early ‘90s and again in the early 2000s. It’s a cyclical business, but I’m very optimistic on what this decade is going to bring for this area.”