Crain’s Detroit Business
May 4, 2023
When 1,500 business, government and civic leaders gather for the Mackinac Policy Conference in a few weeks, they will hear a lot about the “power of and” — a solutions-oriented theme that is intended to last long after participants head home.
Matt Elliott, Bank of America’s Michigan president and chair of this year’s annual meeting hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber, said human nature often is to approach things in either-or terms: Black and white, Democrat and Republican, West Michigan and East Michigan, Spartans and Wolverines.
“But in real life, we know that the best solutions and most durable solutions are an ‘and.’ It’s when you can bring multiple sides to the table after a healthy debate that probably has some construction tension to it, that ultimately leads to decisions that are sustainable and most durable,” he said Thursday, as the chamber previewed the event that will take place May 30-June 2 on Mackinac Island. “So our goal for the conference is really to start some of those conversations that we think will last well into next year so hopefully we can revisit them again in 2024.”
Pillars of the conference include individual freedom and collective action within institutions; sustainability and economic growth; and investing in the future while also being financially responsible.
Organizers said they lined up speakers and panelists who can help guide an “and”-focused agenda. Speakers include:
- Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. — a new addition announced Thursday. He is expected to talk about the transition to electric vehicles, Ford’s Michigan Central project, the “war for talent” and the company’s reorganization into three divisions, chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said. “We want to drill down with Bill as to what’s the ‘and’ in all of those? How do those new entities within Ford tie together, how do they ‘and’ them together?”
- Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. “She kind of personifies the ‘and’ theme that Matt has brought to us. How do you combine traditional conservative political principles with the preservation of democratic norms and protection of American institutions?” Baruah said. “She obviously has paid a price for being out front on those issues.”
- Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America
- CNN host Fareed Zakaria
- Richard Florida, an author and founder of the Creative Class Group
- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
- Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
- University of Michigan President Santa Ono
- Camille Lloyd, director of the Gallup Center on Black Voices
The chamber will release its first poll conducted with the Gallup Center on Black Voices, a survey of 12,000 people in Detroit and surrounding areas “to get to the lived experiences of Black Americans in Detroit and the region,” Baruah said. A panel will focus on “how business issues intersect equity issues, kind of one of the classic ‘ands’ that we’re going to be discussing at this conference.”
Organizers said data will be an important piece of the conference, both to “level set” with people and provide context.
Another poll, this one statewide, will provide an update on respondents’ views on issues such as the shift to electric vehicles and the importance of college degrees.
“What’s the ‘and’ between electrification and the internal combustion vehicle?” Elliott said. “This is something that’s critical to the state of Michigan. We’ve got to get this right to win.”
Four Democrats in Michigan’s 15-member U.S. congressional delegation will participate in the conference. No Republicans will attend, after U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga canceled due to official travel related to his job, according to Baruah.
“We always try for a bipartisan congressional panel up at the event,” he said. “Unfortunately we’re not going to have it this year. Now I will say that we’ve got better bipartisan representation coming up from the Legislature.”