2006-06-10 / News

State Leaders Gather on Island To Discuss Problems, Solutions

By Leslie Rott

Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos at the Mackinac Policy Conference. (Photograph courtesy of Nick Mann, Grand Hotel Photography) Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos at the Mackinac Policy Conference. (Photograph courtesy of Nick Mann, Grand Hotel Photography) "The old solutions aren't going to work," said Governor Jennifer Granholm, speaking about the state of the economy at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week at Grand Hotel. "Let's stop looking in the rearview mirror, let's look forward,"

She and her gubernatorial challenger, Richard DeVos, were among more than 1,600 conferees attending the threeday symposium of problems and solutions, sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The challenge was to fix the ailing economy and to prepare for a new era of business in the state.

To that end, the Governor introduced new commercials developed by the Michigan Business Marketing Campaign and produced by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Travel Michigan. The EDC promotes new business in the state, Travel Michigan promotes tourism, and the two actors appearing in the clips are Michiganders.

Jeff Daniels is the spokesperson for the EDC campaign, which carries the slogan, "Wherever in the world you compete, Michigan can give you the upper hand."

Chief Executive Officer and President of Chrysler Group Thomas LaSorda (left) and First Vice Chairman of the Detroit Regional Chamber and ex-Mayor of Detroit Dennis W. Archer after Mr. LaSorda's speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference Thursday, June 1. Chief Executive Officer and President of Chrysler Group Thomas LaSorda (left) and First Vice Chairman of the Detroit Regional Chamber and ex-Mayor of Detroit Dennis W. Archer after Mr. LaSorda's speech at the Mackinac Policy Conference Thursday, June 1. Tim Allen is the spokesperson for the Travel Michigan campaign.

"The travel industry is such a great opportunity for Michigan," Governor Granholm said, while urging those traveling in Michigan this summer not to cancel their trips because of the high gas prices.

She was introduced by West Bluff cottager Richard Manoogian, CEO and chairman of MASCO Corporation.

Along with the Governor, others at the conference emphasized collaboration and regionalism, focusing on a statewide effort to move Michigan forward.

In a session entitled, "Taking Control of Your Community's Destiny," Edsel B. Ford, director of Ford Motor Company, in introducing Neal Peirce, said that as a region, "If you don't know where you are going, you are not going to get there." He added that the entire state needs to adopt a new leadership paradigm in which larger groups with more varied interests need to be making decisions.

At left: Governor Jennifer Granholm urges state leaders to look forward at the Mackinac Policy Conference. At left: Governor Jennifer Granholm urges state leaders to look forward at the Mackinac Policy Conference. Neal Peirce, Chairman of The Citistates Group and nationally recognized columnist, said "all of the region rises or sinks together." He emphasized that the entire state, not just Metro Detroit, comprises a region and told attendees to look to Chicago as a beacon of sustainability.

In another session, "Fueling Michigan's Growth Engine: An Automotive Perspective," Chrysler Group CEO and President Thomas LaSorda discussed how Mackinac Island was an appropriate place for the conference because of its horsepower, despite being a different kind than Mr. LaSorda is used to. And, he added, "At three bucks a gallon, gas has gotten everyone's attention," especially considering summer travel.

Mr. LaSorda announced at the conference that Chrysler will be offering a full size diesel SUV, which will be built in Detroit. Consumer diesel vehicles could give enough mileage, he said, to drive from Metro Detroit to Mackinac Island and back on one tank of gas. He also emphasized the need for biofuels and said, "We need Michigan, our home state, to step up to the challenge," echoing the Governor's suggestion of gaining independence from the need and use of foreign oil.

Christianne Sims, special projects coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber, ruled the conference as a success and is especially hopeful that discussions started here will continue in lower Michigan.

"We believe it went very well this year," she said. "It was great to keep the conversation going off the Island. It was definitely more of a working conference."

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm said that without the preservation of state gems such as Mackinac Island, there would be no reason for the conference to take place.

Ms. Sims added that the Island provides the perfect mix of seclusion to get work done, and yet it has everything that attendees might need while at the conference.

Grand Hotel Vice President Mary Beth Daniels said the hotel bases the success of the conference on the happiness of the attendees and the overall operation of the conference. She said representatives from the Detroit Regional Chamber said the hotel and entire Island seemed well prepared to accommodate the conference and its attendees.

"The client left and they were very satisfied and pleased. To us, it was a very successful week," Ms. Daniels said.

Notable faces seen at the conference who were not on the agenda included Congressman John Dingell, State Senator for the 37th District Jason Allen, State Senator for the 14th District Gilda Jacobs, and actor Jeff Daniels.

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