May 28, 2014 at 1:00 am


Annual policy conference an asset

On this porch on Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel, Michigan's future will be discussed all week. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)

The Mackinac Policy Conference is the preeminent policy conference in Michigan and a one-of-a-kind asset. Where else do corporate, government and nonprofit leaders come together annually from across the state to discuss challenges, work to find solutions and build relationships?

In recent years, the Detroit Regional Chamber has placed a priority on demystifying the conference, increasing access to an audience well beyond the 1,500 in attendance. In 2011, the chamber began to partner with Detroit Public Television (DPTV) in an effort to broadcast and webcast the conference and provide nearly all content to media outlets and their vast audiences, at no cost. Annually about 50,000 Michiganians now view at least part of the conference, without having to buy a ticket.

This continues to pay dividends. More citizens are engaged. There is greater C-suite participation. Media interest continues to grow. Our annual To-Do List of action items completed throughout the year brings accountability. The conference is more impactful and far-reaching than ever, and has emerged as Michigan’s Center Stage.

This year’s conference focuses on the pillars of entrepreneurship, STEM education and impact. Programming will tie back to one or all of these themes. Thought-leaders like Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, Fortune magazine’s Nina Easton and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will bring thought-provoking discussion to Grand Hotel.

Clifton, who has the research on what the world is thinking, will address the relationship between entrepreneurs and the world’s dominant common concern – quality jobs. Detroit entrepreneurs built the automobile and changed the world forever. Decades later, tech entrepreneurs did the same in Silicon Valley. Now it’s Detroit’s and Michigan’s turn to again redefine the world.

Daniels, who is president of Purdue University, will provide insight on making government work efficiently toward common goals to achieve results on important issues like STEM education. This pillar centers on driving job growth with the talent needed by global employers. That involves focusing on a progressive curriculum as well as redefining advanced skilled trades to ensure employers have access to a broad talent pool and our kids have viable options to reach their full potential in the 21st century economy.

The impact pillar is about boldly confronting real problems with innovative policy. No state has been more active on this front than Michigan under the leadership of Governor Rick Snyder who will again be on stage.

Few issues are of more statewide importance or impact than the future of our largest city. Michigan goes as Detroit goes, and if Michigan gets the Detroit bankruptcy right; the sky’s the limit. Attendees will hear from Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr on moving the city forward. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will also share his insight from New Orleans’ revitalization.

There are many issues to discuss and we can only bring so many to the main stage; so we limit ourselves by design. We want to have in-depth conversations. However, we assure you, if it’s a key issue for Michigan, attendees will be discussing it with leaders who can make a difference.

So whether you’re on the Island next week, tuning in through DPTV or discussing the content online using #MPC14, take away a new idea, a new connection or a renewed resolve to make a difference. Michigan will be better for it.

Sandy Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Hank Cooney is president and CEO of Plunkett Cooney and the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair.