Another Mackinac Policy Conference has come and gone. With nearly 1600 business and community leaders attending the 35th Detroit Regional Chamber’s confab, there was not a shortage of ideas, conversations and, of course, networking opportunities.
This year, the Chamber identified three pillars–Talent, Urban Revitalization and Cohesion–and focused its three-day agenda on addressing these important topics.
With this as a backdrop, I conducted eight interviews for my “Small Talk” radio show and was asked to provide thoughts about the conference with Channel 7’s Chuck Stokes, et al.
Here are my observations:
Clearly, cohesion is at the forefront, not just across the Southeastern Michigan, but “connecting the dots” between the Detroit region and the Western and Northern parts of the state.
The sense I got was this: we’re all in this together, so let’s collectively work together to solve the region’s and state’s common challenges. While the city and state are showing increased momentum, and it’s clear there’s still a ways to go, they won’t be successful if both operate in regional “silos”, however, in partnership with all stakeholders having a vested interest.
The energy and vibe among small business owners were refreshing and invigorating. I talked to several entrepreneurs and asked why they attended. Most notably, responses included wanting to make a difference and leveraging the “power of the network” for business opportunities. Clearly, entrepreneurs recognize the opportunity and their role in the city’s and state’s economic development and growth for the future.
Detroit is generally front and center–and, as the state’s largest city, it should be. However, there is certainly a keen interest in revitalizing smaller population centers such as Flint, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, Muskegon, et al. Without vibrancy across these and other areas, the state will not recognize and achieve its future growth potential.
This is the first time it’s been on the agenda with such prominence, and it shouldn’t be the last. While a touchy topic to some, it is critically important dialogue continues and while the Kellogg Foundation’s report on racial equality and its impact on business results opened eyes, this should serve as a foundation for future discussions. It’s time to move on and plans which should be discussed and be implemented.
In other words, it’s time to translate words into action.
During a radio interview with a prominent Detroiter, someone asked exactly what does the phrase represent and where did the phrase start? Is it a lack of diversity in downtown’s revival at new hotspots or Downtown/Midtown growth at the expense of the neighborhoods? Or, while Detroit’s population decline has slowed significantly, is it primarily due younger, suburbanites moving into the city while African Americans continue the exodus? Thus, creating another Detroit.
In their opinion, “Two Detroit’s” continue to foster historically racial divisiveness. Ultimately, the conversation should focus on dialogue and identifying what it takes to have a unified Detroit where people can live, work and enjoy, irrespective of where they live and work.
According to various reports, there are nearly 100k unfilled, high-tech jobs across the state and, according to Detroit-based Grand Circus Co., the city has 10k unfilled, high-tech jobs available today. The immediate challenge is to retrain individuals and skill sets to ensure these jobs are potentially filled by qualified residents.
There were many other issues addressed such as education and Detroit’s progress report by the Mayor, for example. In my opinion, the time is now to take the MPC dialogue, develop and implement realistic plans which will continue to focus on driving growth as it relates to the city’s and state’s future.
The time is now. Let’s get started