With the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference now in the books, I’m reminded of why this is such a can’t-miss event for so many Michigan politicians and business and community leaders. The value of the conference is in its ability to facilitate networking and relationship building. It’s not just an opportunity to take the temperature of the business and political community, but a chance to try and understand what’s coming next.
Many of the discussions held at this conference lead to (or at least foreshadow) important trends that become clear over the next few years. If the tenor of the conversation at the 2013 iteration was any indication, key issues in going forward will revolve around state taxation and regulation, specifically the details of how municipalities across Michigan will comply with changing business and regulatory mandates coming out of Washington. There was a great deal of discussion about the need for clarity in the timing and direction of how the state is going to handle Medicaid and the new health care exchanges. The lack of certainty is tough for businesses, and we’ll need to hone in soon on some concrete details and final solutions as to how heath care reform will be handled by the state.
I also heard continued discussion about the future of the city of Detroit. What the city will look like in the wake of the EFM (Emergency Financial Manager). Mackinac is an opportunity—in many ways a unique opportunity—to have those kinds of conversations about these important issues with a group of people who may not be in one place at one time in many (or perhaps any) other venues.
Any time you can bring business leaders, politicians and media figures together, it makes for interesting conversation. In fact, some of those off-the-record conversations were very compelling: candid discussions and unfiltered perspectives that simply wouldn’t happen with a camera or a microphone present. As a result, this is where compromise can really happen, and where people on both sides of the aisle can meet in the middle. There is traditionally somewhat of a negative connotation to the notion of a “backroom deal” (there’s an implication is that it involves something shady), but the reality is that in today’s highly charged political climate, off-the-record meetings and informal discussions are a vital way to drive policy forward and craft actual solutions.
Speaking of which, the Detroit Chamber released its annual post-convention “To Do” list for the year ahead, and that list is packed with ambitious and worthy goals that Michigan businesses can (and hopefully will) support:
- Convene businesses and community colleges to better link the talent needs of employers with community college program offerings.
- Expand the successful “lessons learned” trips to U.S. cities (e.g. Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.) that can help inform the ongoing renaissance in Michigan’s major urban centers.
- Expand upon the cyber security lessons learned at the Mackinac Policy Conference by developing and executing efforts that help inform the business community of 21st century cyber threats.
- Coalesce the regional business community to support comprehensive immigration reform that helps drive economic growth and a pilot program in Michigan.
- Promote the Detroit region as a growing and vibrant IT and entrepreneurial hub.
- Commit to celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit—its successes and its failures—at the 2014 Mackinac Policy Conference.