Wrapping up the Mackinac Policy Conference
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Early Friday morning, gardeners with the Grand Hotel were busy in the large flower bed at the entrance. They pulled up the massive display of tulips that greeted Mackinac Policy Conference attendees who arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday and installed new plants in time for this weekend’s Lilac Festival on the island. The lilacs on the Grand Hotel grounds have emerged in full force this week.
Refreshed flower beds and blooming shrubs may be a metaphor for the buoyant attitudes of attendees and speakers at this year’s conference.
In a crowded agenda, auto companies, state agencies, and Michigan’s colleges and universities came together around the issue of mobility and connected transportation. The state announced “Planet M”, an initiative to become an international leader in mobility – combining automotive expertise with technology.
Similarly, Macomb County was buoyed by the announcement of the Defense Innovation Center.
Falling off those announcements were commitments to new approaches to build the workforce to support the jobs those initiatives are expected to bring, by improving educational outcomes and exploring alternative forms of funding public education. News late Thursday evening of House passage of a Detroit education finance bill was icing on the cake.
Mayor Duggan’s upbeat presentation on the city of Detroit – despite admitted challenges – also fired up attendees. What made it so memorable, no doubt, was that while there is much to do, visible progress is being achieved. His presentation was, without a doubt, the most talked about session of the week.
As someone who has attended more than a dozen of these gatherings, the mood among attendees was notably different from what I’ve experienced in the past. There’s a sense that Michigan has a better sense of itself and sees the way forward to deal with any number of problems – from transit in Detroit to Flint water to economic growth.
As attendees leave the island, perhaps it would be appropriate to take a moment and smell the lilacs. The hard work resumes on Monday.