By Rick Garcia
The 34th Mackinac Policy Conference convened more than 1,500 professionals, government leaders, CEOs and media on the island- a scaled down version of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Presented by the Detroit Regional Chamber, the three-day conference is a “State of the State for Business in Michigan,” led and sponsored by many key Michigan based corporations and includes a cadre of public officials, Michigan legislators and Governor Rick Snyder.
According to the Detroit Regional Chamber, the 2014 conference objective was to create a more globally competitive and financially attractive business environment in Michigan focused on three pillars: Entrepreneurship, STEM Education, and Impact (economic transformation through sound public policies and measurable standards).
This year’s conference presented new ways of expanding and enhancing the conference not only to the island goers but around the state through Media Row, where scores of major media outlets give a first-hand glimpse from business and government leaders, thought leaders and national media personalities.
The PAC Candidate forum featured U.S. Representative Gary Peters and former Secretary of State of Michigan Terri Lynn Land –both vying for U.S. Senator Carl Levin’s seat. Senator Levin (D) will retire after 36 years.
Congressman Peter’s number one priority is getting the Michigan economy forward, particularly in the greater Detroit area. One issue he raised includes transforming Michigan into a transportation and logistics hub for the country. The other is a new rail between Windsor and Detroit. Congressman Peter would like to see a high-speed passenger rail from Chicago Detroit Toronto, which he sees jobs from this infrastructure going forward for years to come.
Terri Lynn Land made her debut as a candidate for U.S. Senate by reflecting on her core family values as a West Michigan farming and business family. Land went right to the heart of the matter on how too often bad policies are coming out of Washington D.C. She favors repealing The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We need people to buy affordable insurance plans with pre-tax dollars and out of state if desired. Keeping a patient doctor relationship is key,” said Land.
On “Critical Thinking” Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify, gave a sobering discussion on the inability to educate our kids for the 21st century economy. Klein says in the last three years there has been a widening earning gap between college educated graduates, high-school graduates and high-school dropouts.
“Income inequality will continue because the 21st century economy is not as forgiving as the 20th century economy,” said Klein who states that one in three kids is getting the education they need for the future economy. However, for Latinos and African Americand, it’s one in five and seven respectively.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and his Detroit “Crack Squad,” of corporate and community partners including newly minted city leaders gave a compelling and hopeful outlook at the city’s work on blight removal and true private and public partnerships. One of his key ask to the audience was to help fill 5,000 internships to young adults by the summer of 2015.
In Governor Rick Snyder’s keynote address he addressed two current active issues: The Detroit settlement (or the Grand Bargain) and Roads.
Snyder called for bi-partisan support. “This is our opportunity to address 50-60 years of problems,” he said. “When you talk to people from out of state what is the most common perceptions of Detroit, it’s seen on national news. They are not even right but that’s how the discussion goes…Five to ten minutes,” Snyder went on saying with the settlement being done right, there could be a moment this fall where the five to ten minutes can go away. “..And then you can talk about the Michigan you want to talk about.”
Rick Snyder took a picture of the glass of water and asked the group if it was half-full or half-empty. “We’re concerned that our spirit was broken and the best days being behind us,” he said indicating his reason for running again was to bring that spirit back. “We are the comeback state. But that’s not good enough.”
This was printed in the June 15 - June 28, 2014 edition.