MotorCities National Heritage Area logo

July, 2015

Recently longtime MotorCities volunteer, supporter and board member, Don Nicholson, was honored as the Westland Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Business Person of the Year.

Nicholson became involved with MotorCities, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and promotion of auto heritage in the region, in 2007 when he was appointed to to the group’s Stewardship Council.

From there, Nicholson and MotorCities have cemented what he describes as a “perfect partnership,” teaming up to tout the region’s rich auto culture from educational programs to cruises and much more.

“MotorCities is a phenomenal amazing idea for the auto heritage in southeast Michigan,” said Nicholson. “Kids today need to learn about the area they are growing up in and how important the auto is here.”

A history buff and auto enthusiast from early days in his native Canada, Nicholson organized the first Cruisin’ Michigan Avenue and other auto events shortly after transitioning himself out of the photography business. It was around this time he started his own business, Don Nicholson Enterprises, LLC.

MotorCities’ mission immediately struck a chord with Nicholson when he met with Brian Yopp, program and operations director, in 2007 at Brownie’s Diner in Wayne.

“We talked a lot about what MotorCities can do and I felt it was a perfect partnership,” says Nicholson. “MotorCities fulfills what I enjoy most which is auto history.”

No longer affiliated with Cruisin’ Michigan, Nicholson’s big event now happens near the end of August with Cruisin’ Hines - a classic cruise stretching along Hines Drive from Ford Road to Ann Arbor Trail. Cruisin’ Hines is one of 16 affiliated events under the Autopalooza flag, a joint branding effort between the MotorCities National Heritage Area and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Autopalooza is a summer-long celebration of auto heritage and culture showcasing cruises and car shows including the Woodward Dream Cruise, the Concours d’Elegance, Back to the Bricks in Flint and more.

Nicholson, who also was honored with a volunteerism award from the Daughters of the American Revolution this year, was introduced to Michigan’s rich auto heritage at an early age when he and his family started visiting Nankin Mills just like Henry Ford did during his childhood. Ford’s relationship with Nankin Mills, as well as with other mills in the region, is a well documented story all too familiar to Nicholson.

Now Nicholson sits on the Friends of the Nankin Mills Board along with 15 other boards and commissions. He was first elected to the MotorCities Board of Directors in 2010 and just recently was appointed to the Executive Committee.

Nicholson’s passion for not only auto heritage but American history is evident as he talks about roving the country seeking new avenues and adventures.

“My passion is heritage,” says Nicholson. “The auto heritage here is so prominent. I travel all the backroads...I love traveling.”

In a region where auto connections run deep within many families and communities, MotorCities’ work to educate people about auto and labor history is critical, says Nicholson.

“There are so many milestones, it’s great to look at the positive things that we’ve done as a society,” says Nicholson. “The history of the car has changed the world in so many ways, those are some of the things that we need to make sure our kids growing up understand.”

Born in Ottawa, Nicholson and his family came to the states when his father transferred to Virginia. Nicholson spent most of his life in the Westland area having attended Nankin Mills Elementary and Junior High, and then Churchill High School.

It has been a big year for Nicholson not only professionally but personally as he became a U.S. citizen on June 8 after living in the states for 45 years.