December 16: Mellody Hobson, Walter Robb and Nate Silver to Keynote Mackinac Policy Conference; State of the Region Reveals Promising Growth for Southeast Michigan

Mellody Hobson, Walter Robb and Nate Silver to Keynote Mackinac Policy Conference

DreamWorks Animation Board Chair Mellody Hobson, Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb and leading political prognosticator Nate Silver are among the national all-star lineup of keynote speakers scheduled to take Michigan’s Center Stage at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference. The annual, four-day Conference is scheduled for May 26-29 at the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. This year’s themes will focus on talent, urban revitalization and cohesion. To register for the Conference, click here.

Drawing on her vast business and financial expertise, Hobson’s perspective fits with the Conference pillar of talent and connecting individuals with opportunities. In addition to her work with DreamWorks, she is a nationally-recognized voice, having served as a financial contributor for ABC’s “Good Morning America” for the past 10 years and as the current president of Ariel Investments in Chicago.

As Co-CEO, Robb is the driving force behind Whole Foods’ market outreach, notably its expansion into Detroit in 2013. Robb oversees the company’s operations across six regions. A fervent natural foods entrepreneur, Robb’s perspective lends itself to the Conference’s cohesion pillar and the overarching ethos of doing well by doing good.

Utilizing a data-driven approach to understanding election outcomes, Silver first gained national attention in 2008 after correctly predicting the presidential winner in 49 states. His presence builds on the Conference’s legacy of attracting first-rate national experts to analyze the local and national political landscape.

Silver is the editor-in-chief of, an award-winning website focused on statistical analysis of politics, sports and science. In addition, he has published numerous books including New York Times bestseller, “The Signal and The Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t.”

Click here to view full speaker bios and an updated agenda on the Chamber’s website.

State of the Region Reveals Promising Growth for Southeast Michigan

In case you missed it, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s inaugural State of the Region is now available online.

The comprehensive overview, presented by Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah, highlights Southeast Michigan’s challenges and opportunities for economic growth heading into 2015. Among its highlights, the State of the Region shows that Southeast Michigan’s gross domestic product grew by 9 percent, outpacing the national average by 5 percent from 2009-2013. In that same time period, private sector jobs grew by 9.8 percent, and Michigan’s entrepreneurial climate ranking climbed from 41st in 2008 to sixth in the nation in 2013.

Click here to download the State of the Region and watch a video presentation of the report. The Chamber’s Year in Review that focuses on its initiatives and accomplishments throughout the past year is also available to download on the Chamber’s website.

Help Your Employees Struggling with Mental Health Issues

Depression and stress can be the underlying causes of many chronic health conditions. Additionally, employees with mental health issues display lower productivity and can impact morale. The Detroit Regional Chamber is partnering with Employers Health Coalition to promote the Right Direction initiative, which raises awareness about depression in the workplace, promotes early recognition of symptoms and reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness.

HealthForward members can attend a special presentation at the Chamber’s Employer Health Care Guiding Council meeting on Jan. 15. For more information, contact Jonathan So at

Chamber Closed for Christmas Holiday Beginning Dec. 25

The Detroit Regional Chamber will be closed for the Christmas holiday beginning Thursday, Dec. 25 through Friday, Jan. 2. The Chamber will resume its normal business hours on Monday, Jan. 5. Look for the next eDetroiter in the new year. Have a safe and happy holiday!

State of the Region Provides Economic Data Behind Metro Detroit’s Comeback, Bright Future

Over the past five years, there has not been a more compelling economic development story than that of the Detroit region.

The Detroit Regional Chamber recently released its inaugural State of the Region that provides an overview of the key indicators that drive growth and economic development. Detroit is a region primed for prosperity and this report offers the context for what should be a bright future.

This dramatic comeback requires world-class assets such as top-notch universities, engineering and talent, manufacturing know-how, business base and the infrastructure to support global commerce. Leveraging these strengths, the Detroit region is growing and rapidly re-emerging as a national economic leader – outperforming most of the country in many key indicators, including gross domestic product and private sector job growth.

To download your copy of the Chamber’s State of the Region, click here.

Dave Hecker

President, AFT Michigan; Vice President, American Federation of Teachers

Hecker, Dave-editDavid Hecker is president of AFT Michigan and an American Federation of Teachers’ vice president. In this role, he oversees a statewide union consisting of 98 local chapters and 35,000 members working for Pre K-12 and intermediate school districts, community colleges and universities. He is co-chair of the AFT organizing committee and also serves on the AFT Teachers Program and Policy Council, as well as the AFT Advisory Committee on State Federations. Hecker also serves as executive vice president of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO and is a member of the Michigan State AFL-CIO Executive Council. He is an officer-at-large of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Walter Robb, Nate Silver and Mellody Hobson to Keynote 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference

DETROIT, December 15, 2014 – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber announced renowned financial expert and Chair of DreamWorks Animation Mellody Hobson, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb and statistician Nate Silver as keynote speakers for the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference. Held Tuesday, May 26 through Friday, May 29, the Conference will drive a statewide dialogue on talent, urban revitalization and cohesion.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference continues to bring top tier programming to Michigan’s Center Stage,” said Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner, Deloitte, and 2015 Conference chair. “Mellody Hobson, Walter Robb and Nate Silver will add their unique perspectives and expertise to what is shaping up as a dynamic agenda. True to form, this year’s Conference will challenge Michigan’s leaders with innovative ideas to move this state forward.”

The 2015 Conference aims to ensure Michigan’s dynamic and geometric economic growth through three pillars:

  • Talent: Deepen Michigan’s talent base through attraction and retention and by connecting individuals with opportunities.
  • Urban Revitalization: Drive innovative approaches to transforming Michigan’s historic and new urban centers to foster business growth, financial stability, infrastructure improvements and placemaking.
  • Cohesion: Inspire a commitment among Michigan’s leaders to speak with “One Michigan Voice” built on a foundation of shared values and the overarching ethos of “doing well, by doing good.”

“Michigan’s re-emerging as a national economic leader, but there is a lot of work yet to be done to continue that momentum,” said Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah. “Expanding the talent base, revitalizing urban centers to unleash their full economic potential, and developing a cohesive strategy focused on what is good for the state will be critical to Michigan’s continued growth.”

The announcement of Hobson, Robb and Silver build on the Conference’s emphasis on providing thought-provoking programming to Michigan’s business, philanthropic and political leaders. The Chamber will announce additional speakers leading up to the event.

Mellody Hobson, Chair, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.; Financial Contributor, “Good Morning America”

Money-savvy expert Mellody Hobson has been educating viewers on important financial decisions as “Good Morning America’s” financial contributor for over a decade. Hobson serves as president of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm. She is a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education. Additionally, Hobson is a regularly featured columnist for Black Enterprise magazine and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., and director of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Starbucks Corp.

Walter Robb, Co-CEO, Whole Foods Market

With a long and varied history in natural foods ranging from retailer to consultant, Whole Foods Market Co-CEO Walter Robb is the driving force behind the company’s outreach to new markets, notably its expansion into Detroit in 2013. Robb oversees the company’s operations across six regions and sits on the Whole Planet Foundation board of directors. A fervent natural foods entrepreneur, Robb is on a mission to “change the way people eat.”

Nate Silver, Founder,; Bestselling Author

As a former syndicated columnist for The New York Times, Nate Silver first gained national attention during the 2008 presidential election, when he correctly predicted the results of the primaries and the presidential winner in 49 states. In addition to serving as editor-in-chief of, an award-winning website focused on statistical analysis of politics, sports and science, Silver is an on-air commentator for ESPN and has published numerous books including New York Times bestseller “The Signal and The Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t.” He was recently named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Influential People in Business.

To register for the Conference, visit

Detroit Regional Chamber 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference
The Mackinac Policy Conference – the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual event – brings together business and government to re-energize Michigan. Since 1981, the Conference has provided access to Michigan’s top business professionals, legislative leaders, corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs and veteran regional champions. Approximately 1,500 attendees will gather for the 2015 Conference, which will be held May 26 – May 29 at the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission of powering the economy for Southeast Michigan is carried out through economic development, education reform, regional collaboration and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit

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Stephen Henderson

Editorial Page Editor, Detroit Free Press

Henderson, Stephen-editStephen Henderson is editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press. His column appears on Sundays in the newspaper and at A Detroit native, Henderson has been a reporter, editorial writer and editor for the Free Press, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun. Before returning to Detroit in 1997, he spent four years covering the U.S. Supreme Court for the McClatchy Company’s (formally Knight Ridder) Washington Bureau.

Niles Heron


Heron, Niles-croppedNiles Heron is the founder of He has a diverse background building creative business development and operational strategies across the technological, digital communication, manufacturing, bio-pharmaceutical, community fundraising and nonprofit industries. He has managed, designed and implemented corporate outreach marketing and communication strategies targeting business-to-business and business-to-consumer clientele, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Heron also works with Detroit’s youth on financial education and job readiness training. He writes for numerous local and national publications.

Mark High

President, Canada-United States Business Association; Partner, Dickinson Wright PLLC

High_MarkMark High is president of the Canada-United States Business Association (CUSBA) and partner at Dickinson Wright PLLC. He serves as general counsel to buyers and sellers in mergers or acquisitions in hi-tech, manufacturing, retail, real estate, automotive and defense industries. Further, he is lead counsel to domestic operations for numerous foreign businesses. As president of CUSBA, High guides the nonprofit’s mission of convening business, financial and governmental leaders from Michigan and Ontario to help promote common business interests of Canada and the United States and build stronger trade partnerships.

Daniel Howes

Associate Business Editor, The Detroit News

Howes, Daniel-editDaniel Howes is columnist and associate business editor of The Detroit News. Prior to that, Howes served as the News’ European correspondent and automotive columnist, as well as senior automotive writer and an investigative and projects reporter. He is the recipient of numerous awards including multiple International Wheel awards for column writing, and a four-time winner of Northwestern University’s Medill award for general markets coverage. He is a regular contributor on NewsTalk 760 WJR in Detroit and Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.

Scott Hutcheson

Senior Advisor, Cultural Economy, City of New Orleans

Hutcheson, Scott-editScott Hutcheson is the senior advisor for cultural economy to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. In this role, he works closely with the mayor and deputy mayors to develop policy that creates infrastructure for a strong and vibrant cultural economy. As part of the mayor’s leadership team, Hutcheson explores opportunities to facilitate, link and leverage cultural assets and the cultural workforce across city government for a deeper impact on the city’s economic development. He also supervises the New Orleans Film Office, which coordinates over 120 film production projects a year.

Nancy Kaffer

Columnist, Detroit Free Press

Nancy KafferNancy Kaffer is an award-winning columnist and member of the editorial board at the Detroit Free Press. Kaffer writes about politics, policy and the complicated relationship between the two, and is a regular guest on WDIV-TV’s “Flashpoint,” NPR’s “Detroit Today,” Michigan Radio’s “Stateside” and Detroit Public Television’s “MiWeek.” She’s also a contributor to The Daily Beast, writing about state and national politics, policy and culture. Kaffer previously served as a staff writer for Crain’s Detroit Business, covering small business, retail, city government and Michigan’s economy.