Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > What to Watch for at the Mackinac Policy Conference

What to Watch for at the Mackinac Policy Conference

May 29, 2023

Crain’s Business Detroit
May 26, 2o23
David Eggert

About 1,500 leaders in business, government, philanthropy and other fields will make the annual trek north to tackle Michigan’s pressing issues while schmoozing and enjoying panoramic lake views from the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference officially opens Tuesday, with much of the agenda set for Wednesday and Thursday.

Here is what to know about the meeting:


The theme is the “power of &” — a focus on why the state needs an “and” approach to policy fixes instead of an “either/ or” perspective. That is not to say there should not be “constructive tension” and debate, said Matt Elliott, Bank of America’s Michigan president and chair of this year’s conference. “But the best solutions to the biggest challenges come when you get to an ‘and,’ when multiple points of view get airtime … but after that debate you end up in a better place that’s sustainable, that’s a true win-win and that is something that’s durable.”

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.


Ahead of the meeting, there has been sobering, fresh news about the state’s long-known population problem and the threat to its competitiveness and quality of life. Michigan ranked second-last nationally with just 1% growth from 2000 to 2020 and is projected to grow more slowly than the rest of the country for years to come and start to decline in the 2040s.

A new poll shows younger residents are optimistic that they could do well here but are not wedded to staying in Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said last fall that she would make developing a population-growth strategy a second-term priority, may announce details at the conference. She has been looking to create a commission and has said it should be bipartisan and transcend her time as governor.

Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said he expects elected officials, including Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, to talk a lot about population growth in their speeches. He noted the two reports from the Citizens Research Council and one on economic development from Business Leaders for Michigan explore the importance of college degree attainment, population growth, placemaking and more.

“There’s a confluence of conversations happening in the state that I think is really going to hopefully put a frame around this and population growth is going to be at the center of that conversation,” Baruah said.


Bigger-name speakers include:

  • Entrepreneur, “Shark Tank” star and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
  • Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan.
  • Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford Motor Co., who will talk about investing in manufacturing and making Michigan a center for innovation again.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who has opposed ex-President Donald Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • Author and urbanist Richard Florida, who will discuss with other experts how cities will make or break the state’s ability to maintain its population.

Detroit Property Taxes

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan intends to roll out his vision for a land value tax, with a focus not on buildings but on the land underneath them.

The goal with a split-rate tax is to lower residential property taxes while raising taxes on vacant land in desirable areas to encourage more development. The change would require alterations in state law.

Watch the Conference

Crain’s will feature live coverage of the conference and a series of podcast interviews with newsmakers and will host the livestream of main conference sessions on Wednesday and Thursday at