Opinion: Let's work together for Michigan's future

Sandy Baruah and Patti Poppe
The Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

We all know that businesses can be a force for good, but that message isn’t always shared widely. Hopefully, that can start to change this week as close to 1,800 business, community and philanthropic thought leaders from across the state discuss the ways in which they are making their communities and our state a better place.

Patti Poppe

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s 39th annual Mackinac Policy Conference is shining a spotlight on the major opportunities that our state is embracing. New political leadership at the state level and rapid evolution in our state’s automotive and high-tech industries make this a perfect time to focus in on Michigan’s priorities and future.

The Mackinac Policy Conference brings people together from all walks of life. Currently, we are operating under a split government following a contentious election. The umbrella of "One Michigan" creates paths to prosperity for families and businesses to grow and thrive. When we bring Michigan together, there is nothing we can’t solve.

Sandy Baruah

The three pillars of this year’s conference speak to those shared values and celebrate all that Michigan has to offer:

  • Prepare Michigan: We must enable a world-class performance for our students, who will be our future. We must prepare students for a variety of careers, recognizing that not everyone travels the same career path.
  • Grow Michigan: We have to let the world know that Michigan is open for business, promoting economic development and creating opportunities for employers and entrepreneurs to choose Michigan and grow here.
  • Love Michigan: Our lakes, rivers and streams and natural resources make Michigan a wonderful place to live. Our job is to nourish what we have and preserve it for generations to come.

Our state already is doing many things very well. We are preparing our talent, growing our state through spirited entrepreneurs and taking a stand for running our companies with sustainable business practices.

Still, Michigan faces a crisis in its education system — one that is apparent throughout our state and not confined to one region. The Mackinac Policy Conference can be the start of having this important conversation statewide. Launch Michigan is having its coming out party on the island, to bring business and policy leaders together to improve our schools without blaming teachers. Change is possible even when it’s hard and it is so necessary for our kids.           

Let’s work together to share ideas, views and perspectives, and remember this: When Michigan wins, we all win.

Sandy Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Patti Poppe is the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference chairwoman and president and chief executive officer of Consumers Energy.