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Detroit Unspun to cover Mackinac Policy Conference

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Detroit’s resurgence and how to make sure it keeps moving ahead will be front and center when 1,600 representatives of Michigan’s political and business groups meet at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island this week. Our Karen Dybis will there to bring you the latest news.

This year’s conference, held at the Grand Hotel, has three key themes:

  • Talent, with a special emphasis on skilled trades
  • Urban revitalization trends
  • Cohesion centered around more regional thinking and collaboration on policy topics that creates “One Michigan Voice.”
Karen Dybis

Karen Dybis

That one voice is essential, not only for Michigan, but also for Detroit … and it is something that has never really been accomplished. There are simply too many messages out there and they often conflict, much to the detriment of our city and our state. This year the Chamber hopes to get conference participants aligned around one message.

Karen will bring you that message.

The conference also plans deep, meaningful dialogue about race that will help ensure what happened recently in Baltimore and Ferguson doesn’t happen in Detroit.

Conference Chair Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner of Deloitte LLP, points out, “If we don’t talk about it, it might get ahead of us, and we can’t afford that.”

One of the events dealing with the issue is a Town Hall called Uniting Two Detroits. That conversation happens Thursday afternoon and will cover how the rebirth of Detroit’s downtown and Midtown and the city’s emergence from bankruptcy have raised questions about inclusion, racial equity and economic opportunity for all Detroiters.

Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for The Detroit News, and Devin Scillian, anchor for WDIV-TV 4, will lead an interactive solutions-based discussion on how the region can band together and bridge the two Detroits.

Just before the conference closes on Friday race will again take center stage.  Race, opportunity and the art of cohesion will be discussed by a panel consisting of Renee Hall, deputy chief, Detroit Police Department; La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Andre Spivey, District 4, Detroit City Council, and Frank Venegas Jr., chairman and CEO, The Ideal Group Inc. It will be moderated by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor, Detroit Free Press.

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Kevyn Orr

Detroit’s bankruptcy and what kind of future it means for the city will be discussed by a panel of bankruptcy who’s who … Kevyn Orr, former emergency manager for Detroit; Steven Rhodes, judge (retired), U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division; Gerald Rosen, chief judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation. They will look at Detroit’s historic Grand Bargain, the challenges facing a post-bankruptcy Detroit, keys for success and how the city is poised for prosperity moving forward.

That happens on Thursday morning.

So much of Detroit’s future success hinges on jobs and growing the talent needed to do those jobs.

Mike Rowe, founder of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and host of CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” will bring the immediate need for more skilled trades training to the forefront of the conference.

Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe

As the former host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” Rowe traveled to all 50 states and worked more than 300 different jobs. One of those was a bridge maintainer on the Mackinac Bridge … a pretty cool skilled-trades job. To read more about Rowe’s drive to get more people into skilled trades work check out Shattering Misconceptions in the Detroiter.

Metro Detroit needs a strong talent pool that includes more middle-skill workers. That means more jobs, more new business and more opportunity for Detroiters. Many of these jobs are in healthcare, manufacturing, information technologies and marketing/advertising services, all areas that are growing in Detroit and Michigan.

A panel will take an in-depth look at a recently released skills gap report, “Driving Opportunity in Detroit: Building a Middle-Skill Workforce to Strengthen Economic Recovery and Expand the Middle Class.”

Other jobs can come from the growing food economy in our city and state. That’s also a topic of conversation at the conference.

Then there are the roads … our pothole-filled, bumpy, awful roads. Where will we get the $1.5 billion needed to fix them? That’s also on the agenda as is how the Regional Transit Authority can create a world-class transportation system in Southeast Michigan. We all know that is essential to Detroit’s future.

What I’ve just shared with you is part of the official agenda but the real work is done in networking opportunities on the Grand Hotel’s porch.

Karen will tie all these subjects and more together for you right here on Detroit Unspun.

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