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Column: Where Michigan’s future takes center stage

By Sandy Baruah and Ray Telang

Nearly 1,700 top business, philanthropic and political leaders will spend this week on Mackinac Island engaged in candid conversation on Michigan’s future.

Away from the distractions and daily routines of the office, leaders are convening for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 38th Mackinac Policy Conference.

This year’s conference centers around three program pillars: Trust, Is Michigan Prepared? and The Mobility Disruption. These three focus areas help guide the dialogue on the island and should set the tone for continued conversations over the next year.

The Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

Here is how the programming will be framed within these pillars:


Last year, we placed the priority of restoring civility in American politics on the statewide agenda and it dominated on-stage and in many headlines. That conversation has evolved this year into restoring trust in business, government and other key institutions.

We are pleased to welcome national thought leaders such as Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan, former U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Paula Kerger, who leads PBS, the most trusted media institutions for 15 consecutive years.

From media to politics, eroding trust has been top-of-mind over the past year and we will explore how Americans can restore confidence and build trust where it is needed most.

Is Michigan Prepared?

Michigan has enjoyed a growing economy, increased investment and job creation in recent years. But as we have learned from past cycles, it is critical Michigan continues to keep its foot on the gas to remain competitive for major business investment.

A greater focus on talent, K-12 education, workforce development, infrastructure – the qualities that global billion-dollar companies consider when expanding – are all necessary to sustain Michigan’s momentum. Statewide experts will discuss what must be done this year and, in the future, to continue the state’s upward trajectory.

The Mobility Disruption

We will continue the discussion of innovation and next-generation mobility, while looking beyond the technology and examining what it will take to strengthen Michigan’s readiness for industry and societal disruption. What policies and regulations will be needed to maintain this innovative era? How can Michigan maintain its leadership position, in a rapidly changing environment? Leaders at the forefront of the automotive industry’s transformation, such as Don Butler of Ford Mobility and John McElroy, host of “Autoline,” will help shape this dialogue.

In addition, our relentlessly positive governor will deliver his final keynote on Michigan’s Center Stage. Gov. Rick Snyder has embraced the opportunities at the conference like no other.  

Thursday evening we will host the first bipartisan gubernatorial debate of this election season. Thanks to our partnership with Detroit Public Television, you can watch the conference sessions and the debate live on the chamber’s website and many news websites. The debate will also air statewide on public television at 8 p.m. Thursday.

As Michigan’s future is discussed, we appreciate the privilege of hosting the platform for these critical conversations and look forward to seeing them continue in the coming year.

Sandy Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Ray Telang is the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference chairman and U.S. Automotive Leader and Detroit Managing Partner for PwC.