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Embracing Forward-Thinking Conversations

Conference Chair Ray Telang outlines a vision for Michigan’s prosperity

By Melissa Anders

Michigan is at a pivotal place, and it is at risk of stagnating if its leaders do not continue to address some lingering issues, according to Ray Telang, U.S. automotive leader and Detroit managing partner for PwC. That’s why Telang, this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference Chair, is looking forward to fostering dialogue on key topics, ranging from workplace equality to the mobility industry. Sessions will focus on three key pillars: Is Michigan Prepared?, The Mobility Disruption, and Trust.

The Detroiter recently sat down with Telang to discuss his vision for the 2018 Conference.

What are some areas to consider when you ask, “Is Michigan prepared?”

Key issues like talent, K-12 education, and workforce development. Are the people that we need trained getting the appropriate resources? How does our infrastructure, postsecondary schools, etc. support getting people to work and/or getting jobs that are critical to our growth so that companies can feel good about continuing to make investments in Michigan? Other key issues include state finances, roads, regional transit, and all the things that companies would look at.

How will Michigan’s mobility leadership be featured in Conference programming?

In the mobility space, this is our opportunity to re-establish our state as an innovation center. We are uniquely positioned given our critical asset of the automotive industry, the number of engineers, the amount of innovation — the patents that are developed here every day. We’re uniquely positioned to capitalize on the transition that’s happening, and will certainly continue to happen, as society changes the way it moves goods and people, and frankly how services are delivered.

Why did you designate trust as one of the Conference pillars?

If we behave in a way that is consistent with how we want to be treated and heard, that will only engender trust. It’s only then will we be able to solve some very important problems, because that’s when we’ll ultimately truly listen to one another and drive solutions that are good for all versus just a few.

Where do we need to build trust?

There’s many places it manifests itself, like trust in the workplace. It has also put a spotlight on some leadership issues — frankly leadership voids — in how we develop talent. More specifically, how do we develop women and minorities? Trust goes into the media, traditional and social media, as well as in government and in corporations.
What do you hope to accomplish with this year’s Conference?

I’m hoping that it will offer an opportunity to continue, or in some cases start an open constructive dialogue about the state’s most critical issues. As we think about this year, it’s even more critical given that it’s an election year.
What are you looking forward to the most?

We’re going to facilitate the first bipartisan gubernatorial debate at the Conference. It’ll be exciting to bring candidates from both parties together on stage.
Where do you think the state needs to go?

We can talk about all the reforms that we make around infrastructure, or the reforms that we’re going to make around postretirement benefits, and some of the things that we need to do to shore up finances. At the end of the day, if we don’t make a significant improvement in our statewide K-12 education system and really get at some leading practices, make the right investments in the right people with the right programs to really move the needle in a positive way, all the things we’re talking about won’t matter. Our kids just will not be prepared to enter the workforce and create careers for themselves.