The smell of molten fudge, horses and lake breezes smacked me in the face when I stepped off the ferry for my first Mackinac Policy Conference 12 years ago.
Emerging onto Main Street and among the throngs of sweatshirt wearing school kids and families on bikes, there was a Michigan Congresswoman. And then, the head of a nonprofit that just gave millions to a public project. And a CEO of a bank. And a county executive.
That’s the beauty of the Mackinac Policy Conference that’s put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber – the people who can impact how we live our lives here in Michigan, are all in one place.
From business leaders who invest and hire in Michigan, to the politicians who decide budgets and policy, to the organizations that spend money to expand cultural experiences. It’s an intensive immersive experience for three days. You can’t leave, you can’t drive away. (Well, because there aren’t cars)
There’s an official conference agenda, with speakers and thought leaders. I’ve had the chance to moderate a lot of them over the years as a journalist. From a panel with the Lt. Governor and Mayor of Flint during the water crisis, to the political hot potato of road funding, to moderating a Gubernatorial debate with candidates from both parties (that was sweaty, believe me), to pondering the future of democracy with author Jon Meacham, to my favorite conversation on leadership with Walgreens CEO (and Detroit native) Roz Brewer.
This year, I’ll be sitting down with Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. to talk the future of EVs and investment in Michigan. And I’ll actually be on a panel (not moderating will be strange for me!) talking about Women’s Leadership – along with Wayne County Commissioner Alisha Bell, Corewell Health CEO Tina Freese Decker, and CEO of BasBlue Nancy Tellem. (I’ll be writing a special blog about that- stay tuned)
But let’s be honest. You’ve seen pictures of shrimp cocktail and people mingling along the porch of the spectacular Grand Hotel (which is the world’s largest porch btw) and thought – well, this is just a boondoggle.
Everyone has to pay their way. Taxpayers aren’t footing the bill. But you better believe some conversations are started and deals are made each year on Mackinac - this is where a lot of business gets done.
And that’s why we think it’s important to be there too. So those conversations don’t happen in the shadows and we’re there to ask questions and cover what’s going on.
I’ll be wearing my sneakers and marching up to the Grand Hotel on Wednesday and Thursday of this week (I don’t stay there, journalists stay downtown – more fudge smells for me!)
And you can watch it all- we’re streaming it live on Local 4+. I’ll join Devin Scillian with reports on the Local 4 newscasts as well and we’ll do Flashpoint from the island too.
But make sure you join us from 12:30-4p each day for live conversations and everything that’s happening up there, on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s our effort to make sure you’re included when we talk about the future of our state.
Don’t hesitate to let me know how we’re doing, what questions you have and what’s on your mind.
See you on the island.