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Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II: Making Michigan A Home for Innovation and Opportunity

To propel Detroit into a prosperous future, Garlin Gilchrist II, lieutenant governor of Michigan, highlighted the importance of connecting communities through regional transit, broadband internet services, and entrepreneurship at the 2019 Detroit Policy Conference.

Gilchrist grew up in Detroit and moved to Seattle after college. During his time living out of state he was Detroit’s “leading defender,” advocating for the city in the face of negativity from those around him. After realizing that the only true way to improve the region’s reputation was to be part of the change, he decided to move back home.

During his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan, Gilchrist took the bus to Ann Arbor. His poor experience with regional transit convinced him of the necessity for connected and effective transit systems.

“We rank dead last in transit amongst our peer regions,” Gilchrist said. “Connected regional transit meets the definition of innovation. It is new, different, and valuable to the community.”

Gilchrist emphasized access to broadband internet connection for everyone in Detroit. The internet allows everyone the opportunity to connect to ideas, education, and career opportunities. Detroit’s broadband internet connection rate is currently about 50 percent, approximately the same as the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is an issue of infrastructure that Gilchrist and his team are working to address with regional businesses.

Enabling young and diverse entrepreneurs is a key to innovate and move Detroit forward, said Gilchrist. He encouraged the audience, full of businesses leaders, state and local government officials, and civic leaders to listen to diverse entrepreneurs representing varying industries, to meet them in the middle and make opportunities available.

“The government needs to be attentive to the needs of the community,” Gilchrist said. “Be ready and able to partner for the success of the region and the state.”

Gilchrist closed with a question: What will the narrative of Detroit be over the next 10, 20 years? He envisions connected communities, increased economic investment, access to education, and more jobs.

“Michigan needs to be a home for opportunity,” he said. “And opportunity needs to be available to all.”