In a few hours, we’ll be on Mackinac Island. It’s not to admire one of Michigan’s greatest tourist assets; it’s to cover the Mackinac Policy Conference.
Some believe this event is only for the elite. Is that true? Yes, in one sense. It is an elite group of individuals who will come together: Business owners. Government stars. Incredible non-profit leaders. But then there are also schmucks like me, who got a sponsorship to go. There are young bucks like Rachel Lutz of the Peacock Room and Andy Didorosi of the Detroit Bus Company, who also received scholarships to get to the Island and bring their small-business agenda to the forefront.
Here’s really what I want to say about the next four days: They count. There will be discussions that could create big new things for Michigan and its cities, Detroit in particular. And if you think that only “elitists” get there, you’re wrong. I’m guarantee that the people who are there feel gratitude for their part in the Mackinac Policy Conference. And if they don’t, they should.
I figured I need an agenda as well while I’m there. And this is what I came up with: I’m there to be the eyes and ears of so-called normal people. I’m going to try to attend every session, be there for every roundtable discussion. I’ll keep a small-business agenda front and center as well as have my eyes open for the big-picture conversations.
Look to this space to see my regular reports from the Island – an Island that I know and love. I was a newspaper intern for the Mackinac Island Town Crier, and I lived on Mackinac for a summer. I also have visited more times than I can count. I feel like I know that place, both in terms of its geography and its residents. I still have friends there, and I try to stay in touch with Island life. I’m going to try to touch on their stories as well this week, to share what I know of the day-to-day life of this unusual place.
As for the Detroit Regional Chamber, they have a mission with this event as well. They want to tell the Michigan story with people and events. They want a conference to bond people on site. They want moments to happen – moments of inspiration, of wonder, of intellect. There will be a lot of small talk and blather, sure. But there also will be meetings where people who never thought they would be in the same room together will meet, see they have something in common and make plans to talk again. Change will happen, of that I truly believe.
There are three main topics to this 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference: How to develop skilled trades, how to boost our urban centers and how to create a “Michigan voice” or cohesion. Every speaker, every subject brought forward will tackle these issues. There also is an underlying agenda of telling another story – of how people are doing well in this state by doing good. That could mean through their charity work, through their daily jobs, through their contributions.
There will be sensitive topics tackled as well – race, poverty, how we use power or misuse it in this state. There will be rallies that ask participants to do better, to be better and to bring new life to their communities upon their return. It is aspirational, I know. But I think it is achievable.
See you on the Island.