Ketih Oliver can thank his teenage dreams of rock stardom for landing him at the top of the event technology business.
Oliver, a Waterford native and bass guitarist, headed to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood in 1986, when he was 18 years old. There he met people who produced live events, primarily for corporations, and he began filling in as an extra hand.
“I didn’t make it as a rock star, and I didn’t realize the [event production] industry existed in Detroit,” says Oliver, owner of Premier Event Technology. “[But after I moved back], I looked up A/V companies one day and, lo and behold, there was a slew of them. I got a job with one.”
Oliver had been in a band and had bought a fair amount of equipment for live shows. When his band broke up, he separated the equipment into smaller parts and began renting it. “I’d learned in LA that corporations pay money for this stuff,” he says. “So that’s where it started, taking old band stuff and repurposing and renting it.”
Today, Oliver’s company employs 28 people and is one of the top event design and technology companies in the state. It’s the preferred provider for Quicken Loans and recently won the in-house contract for Cobo Center, beating out much larger companies. Premier recently partnered with Orlando-based LMG, a major event technology company.
“We’re trying to maintain a small feel, keep our culture and the way we do things, but be able to pull those levers when we need to [for large events],” Oliver says of the LMG partnership.
Oliver, 48, and his wife, Jodi, have been married for 25 years; the couple has three children. “She’s been with me since the beginning,” Oliver says of Jodi, who works in the company’s accounting department. “She’s been a huge part of this.”
Oliver says he’s gratified watching his business—and the people it employs—grow and evolve. “Being a provider, that’s where my happiness comes from,” he says. “We have a nice culture in our business. I’m really excited to be a part of something that’s growing.”