Paul W. Smith

Your morning on the Great Voice of The Great Lakes at WJR kicks off with Emmy award-winning Paul W. Smith, Monday thru Friday, from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Whether he is interviewing the head of a major local company, the governor, a celebrity, or other listeners, Smith has a warm and conversational style that keeps listeners tuned in.

Dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as “the king of talk radio in Detroit,” Smith has interviewed every American president since Gerald R. Ford. Smith is the only broadcaster who has been asked to fill in for three of the biggest names in the business — Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity. Smith has been named “Best” morning show broadcast personality by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Smith was proud to be named a “Michiganian of the Year” by the Detroit News.

Most recently, he was inducted into The Michigan Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, following his earlier induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago.

Registration is open for AssuredPartners of Michigan’s Webinar: Simplifying HSAs for Employers

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can be complex vehicles for employers and employees. HSA regulations and guidelines involve many facets including eligibility, employer and employee contributions and administration. In this webinar, employers will receive a walk-through of the ins and outs of HSAs as well as how they can benefit your employees.

Webinar Details:
Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Time: 1-2 PM (EST)

Register at

Gov. Whitmer Announces New Data Showing Record Small Business Growth


Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
May 16, 2022

LANSING — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer highlighted new data showing Michigan’s economic jumpstart continues as small businesses in the state are experiencing tremendous growth and expansion. In the first three quarters of 2021 alone, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees created almost 170,000 jobs, the fastest start to small business job growth in 23 years, according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information. The state also saw an explosion of entrepreneurs and business owners beginning new ventures in 2021, with 150,000 new small business applications filed to start businesses, which is 59% more than in 2019.

Michigan is home to 902,000 small businesses, with 1.9 million small business employees, representing 48.3% of Michigan workers. And 99.6% of Michigan businesses are defined as small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

View the entire press release.

Further, explore the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2022 State of Region report below.

2022 State of the Region


Michigan trails other states in fourth-grade reading. Report warns it could get worse

Detroit News
Jennifer Chambers

May 17, 2022

Michigan’s public education system remains in a perennial rut, according to an annual state education report released Tuesday, and the state’s young readers are projected to fall farther behind their peers in other states by the end of the decade unless changes in school funding and resources for students are made.

Still Stalled: 2022 State of Michigan Education Report by education advocacy group Education Trust-Midwest said by 2030 Michigan is projected to be 39th in the nation for fourth-grade reading performance — down from its current ranking of 32nd — if nothing changes.

Michigan is in the bottom 10 states for Black students in fourth-grade reading, according to the 2019 National Assessment for Educational Progress, which is the most recent available national assessment data.

Other leading states showed steady gains in student performance over the last 16 years, yet Michigan’s fourth-grade reading scores have stagnated, said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.

Between 2003 and 2019, Michigan’s performance in fourth-grade reading — an important predictor of a child’s future academic success and life outcomes, according to education experts — remained stagnant on the test while leading education states — Massachusetts and Tennessee — made significant progress.

With the release of the report, a statewide coalition of business, civil rights, and civic leaders called on state leaders to invest in and accelerate the educational recovery of Michigan’s students. It also comes amid growing concerns about Michigan’s economic competitiveness and its connection to the state’s educational outcomes.

Alice Thompson, chair of the education committee at the Detroit Branch NAACP, said if Michigan had a fair school funding system, its Black and Latino students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students living in high poverty districts would receive a 100% weighted, equitable funding formula.

“This funding would eliminate the achievement gap and foster a solid path for mastery of grade-level proficiency, embodied with a high degree of social and emotional support,” Thompson said.

Arellano said the state’s longstanding stagnation in student achievement comes as 2021 results from the M-STEP suggest that student achievement growth slowed overall for Michigan students — with the greatest impact on underserved students.

“While these results are clearly troubling, they also represent an opportunity for our state to create a ‘new normal,’ where every student has the opportunity to achieve and where students with the greatest needs receive the funding and resources they need to succeed,” Arellano said.

Michigan’s 2021 state assessment scores dropped in math and social studies for all grades tested while reading scores for older students improved slightly. Michigan students recently took state assessments in April and May. Those results are typically available in late summer.

From 2003 to 2019, Michigan’s Latino students improved in early reading at a rate that was about one-third of the progress Latino students were making nationwide. At the same time, improvement in fourth-grade reading for Michigan’s White students is in the bottom five states, according to data from the 2019 NAEP.

Deidre Lambert-Bounds, a member of the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity coalition, said her hope is that every child has the ability to achieve at their highest ability without the barrier of inequitable funding.

“For far too long, we have not done a good job of properly funding education in a way that the students with the most needs receive funding commensurate with those needs,” said Lambert-Bounds, who is also president of Ignite Social Media. “I have a dream that we finally work together to put a proper funding formula in place that results in the highest quality educational outcomes for our children.”

Other findings from the report:

• Michigan has ranked 43rd of 47 states in the nation for funding gaps that negatively impact low-income students. Additionally, teachers in Michigan’s wealthiest districts are paid about $8,600 more, on average, than teachers in Michigan’s poorest districts.

• Nearly 1 of every 4 Michigan students — about 23% — were required to take at least one remedial course in two- and four-year college or university programs. The percentage for historically underserved groups such as Black students is 43.8%.

• Michigan has the nation’s sixth-highest out-of-school suspension rate for Black students. Advocates have argued suspensions and expulsions are overused in Michigan and across the country, particularly for students of color.

In February, researchers announced that after more than three full school years into Michigan’s controversial Read by Grade Three law, 52% of Michigan’s third-grade students had a “reading deficiency” between first and third grade and the rates were higher among historically marginalized student groups.

The report used data gathered in the spring of 2021 from nearly 9,000 educators and is the second year of a four-year evaluation of the law by Katharine Strunk, director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University, and her team.

View the entire article.

Read the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2022 State of Education Report at the link below.

2022 State of Education Report

Christy McDonald

Christy McDonaldChristy McDonald is the managing editor and anchor of One Detroit. She also anchored special coverage for WTVS Detroit PBS, including documentaries, live news events, and the Mackinac Policy Conference. McDonald appeared numerous times on the PBS NewsHour and CNN reporting on Michigan politics and Detroit’s financial crisis.

A sought-after moderator and speaker, McDonald has led lively discussions at the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Policy Conference, Mackinac Policy Conference, International Women’s Day events, and Business Leaders for Michigan’s CEO Summit, among others. McDonald also co-moderated Gubernatorial debates in 2014 and 2018. She has appeared on WDET public radio as a guest host/panelist, and a featured guest on the syndicated radio show Remarkable Women and WJR’s Anything is Possible.

McDonald also connected with Detroit viewers for 10 years on WXYZ-TV and has received numerous reporting honors from the Associated Press, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and Society of Professional Journalists.

McDonald is a graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison College with a degree in Political Philosophy.

Bill Huizenga

Congressman Bill Huizenga represents Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District, currently serving in his sixth term.

As a House Financial Services Committee member, Huizenga has focused on removing government-imposed barriers to private-sector job creation and increasing transparency across the federal government. He also serves as Ranking Member on the Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets Subcommittee.

Huizenga has focused oversight efforts on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s operations, activities, and initiatives. Huizenga is also serving on the Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Subcommittee.

Since January 2017, Huizenga has served as a co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force and has successfully rallied bipartisan support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This program aims to preserve and protect the Great Lakes ecology while also promoting opportunities for the Great Lakes economy.

Huizenga is also a founding member of the bipartisan PFAS Task Force, which focuses on PFAS education and crafting legislation to help communities recover from PFAS contamination.

Huizenga holds his bachelor’s degree in political science from Calvin College.

Business leaders silent so far on the fate of abortion access in Michigan

Bridge Detroit
Paula Gardner

May 4, 2022

DETROIT — Michigan business leaders join their peers across the nation in trying to figure out how they should react to often-divisive social and state policies that affect their communities and their employees, with the focus now landing on whether to take a stand on abortion access.

However, decisions on when and how to weigh in are not easy, Andy Johnston, vice president for government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce told Bridge Michigan.

One sign of the risk is the fallout to the Walt Disney Co., which initially was criticized for being silent on Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill — and then watched Republican lawmakers take retribution when it came out against the measure.

“Many of our communities are facing this major polarization and fractious political divide,” said Johnston, who has been part of national business discussions on it. “So many of our chambers are always struggling (with) where do you draw the line of engagement to some of these issues?

“It can almost feel like we can never do enough for either side.”

The result so far, as the state considers how it would respond to the apparent reversal of Roe v. Wade and possible new abortion restrictions, is general silence from the business community.

Both abortion-rights and anti-abortion advocates mobilized Tuesday to fundraise, plan their next steps and try to sway public opinion in their direction. A growing part of similar efforts in recent years is enlisting corporate support on watershed moments of public import — such as the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to halt certification of the presidential election, or the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The state’s biggest employers and business advocacy organizations have yet to comment on a leaked draft of a majority Supreme Court opinion that would, if it holds up, overturn Roe and reactivate a 1931 Michigan criminal law that would make abortion a felony in most instances.

Unclear is whether business will take a leadership role on the issue as the Supreme Court finalizes its decision, likely in June, and both Democratic and Republican leaders and party officials gauge what that will mean for Michigan.

Abortion, Johnston said, is not an issue that’s been discussed as a business priority.

To be sure, the issue has significant ramifications not only for women, but for businesses in Michigan, where 51.3 percent of the labor force was female in 2021 — about 1 percent higher than pre-pandemic.

Addressing abortion is “a weird tightrope,” said Alexis Wiley, principal at Moment Strategies, a strategic communications firm in Detroit.

Speaking up could lead to backlash. However, Wiley said, staying silent may carry its own repercussions, particularly if a business caters to women and already advocates for women’s issues.

Wiley’s advice to businesses considering whether and how to state a position as Michigan prepares for a ballot issue this November to change the state Consitution to allow abortions is to understand that controversy is likely to follow.

“Those who speak need to be committed to meaningful action,” Wiley said. “The big concern … is being viewed as hollow. This is a movement where platitudes are not wanted.”

Wiley continued: “If you’re interested in being vague, this is not the conversation for you.”

When it comes to reproductive rights, “every business has to make their own decision,” said Arn Tellem, vice chair of the Detroit Pistons and this year’s chair of the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Making those decisions has sometimes been fraught for companies in an increasingly polarized political climate.

The National Association of Manufacturers was among the first advocacy groups to react to the January 6, 2021, insurrection by calling it “mob rule” and “sedition.”

Michigan business leaders urged the state Legislature not to disenfranchise voters when Republican lawmakers proposed a 39-bill package that would tighten voting rules in April 2021. That followed a show of corporate support in the fight against similar bills in Georgia.

Business voices also expressed concern and support for the nation’s racial reckoning following the police killing of Floyd and urged state Republican and Democratic leaders to unite over COVID-19 safety measures that often divided the business community itself.

“Business leaders have felt more of a responsibility to speak out on public policy issues than certainly any other time in my lifetime,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, during a media gathering to outline Mackinac Policy Conference.

The theme of this year’s conference, planned for May 31-June 2 on Mackinac Island, is “The business community’s changing civic role in polarizing times.”

Tellem said business leaders recognize that there are “certain issues where we have a responsibility to speak out,” including the 2021 state voting rights controversy.

That, he said, “was one issue that galvanized the business (community) because that is essential to part of our American values, of our American democracy.”

While many spoke out at that time, Tellem said, “You can’t speak out on everything.”

Yet, Baruah said, many employers are trusted to provide factual information to their employees and the public. Figuring out their roles amid social change is important so that they can maintain that trust, he added.

But reaction to public statements on social issues can leave businesses gun shy about weighing in on divisive topics due to harsh reaction from the side that disagrees, Johnston said.

Some business leaders are consulting more with their workers about how that message should be delivered, he added, particularly on issues like racial equity that have the potential to affect recruiting.

This year’s goal of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Tellem said, is for business leaders on both sides of the abortion decision to gain understanding of other viewpoints. Other issues also will be discussed.

“It’ll help inform us, too, so when the next crisis or next issue comes up, businesses will be better suited and better able to make (their) decisions.”

In Texas, which made its abortion laws more restrictive in fall 2021, some national businesses altered employee policies. Amazon, for example, told its workers in across the U.S. that it will reimburse them for trips for abortion services or other non-life threatening medical services.

Amazon’s decision followed similar moves in Texas by Citicorp, Yelp! and Apple, all of which experts said were initiated to retain employees. Uber and Lyft told drivers that they would pay for legal bills if drivers are sued for transporting people to abortions.

Those companies conveyed their moves to employees in staff-only emails or company meetings, not in public statements — such as the ones by the Walt Disney Company when it criticized Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in schools.

Disney made the statements after impacted members of its workforce and their supporters complained about the lack of support as Republicans moved legislation unfriendly to the LGBTQ community. When it did speak out against the school bill, the Republican Legislature initiated tax bills impacting the company.

Following the bombshell story Tuesday on the Supreme Court’s likely abortion ruling, Levi Strauss & Co., became the first major company to address the issue, telling the New York Times that restricting abortion access could have “far-reaching consequences for the American work force, the U.S. economy and our nation’s pursuit of gender and racial equity.”

With some issues, companies may feel like there’s no way to win, said Johnston of the Grand Rapids chamber. Their workforce may expect one action, while the community could anticipate another.

Business chamber groups often try to stay “the sane center” in a controversy, Johnston said, but that only goes so far today.

The Grand Rapids chamber must prioritize its most pressing business policy issues for its advocacy.

Today, its members are concerned about the labor force and finding enough workers, a critical issue made worse by the pandemic. Unclear so far is what changes in abortion laws in Michigan will mean, so for now it’s not a chamber priority, Johnston said. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is in a similar position, a representative told Bridge, as it isn’t hearing abortion access being addressed by members.

“We’re supposed to be a place where a bunch of people can live (even if) they don’t agree on a lot,” Johnston said, “but we live together peacefully and we agree on big-picture ideas.

“It’s gotten a lot harder.”

View the entire article.

5 of 10 Republican candidates invited to gubernatorial debate at Mackinac Policy Conference

Melissa Frick
May 13, 2022

DETROIT, MI – Only half of the declared Republican candidates in the running for Michigan Governor were invited to participate in a GOP gubernatorial debate at the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference next month.

The Detroit Regional Chamber invited five of the state’s 10 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls to participate in the June 2 debate, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, the Chamber announced this week.

The five candidates on the roster are James Craig, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano, according to a Chamber news release.

The five gubernatorial candidates who were not invited to participate include Mike Brown, Tudor Dixon, Michael Markey Jr., Ralph Rebandt, and Donna Brandenburg. They were invited to attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but not to participate in the debate, the Chamber said.

According to the Chamber, the participants selected for the debate were identified as the “top five” most well-known candidates based on a recent statewide survey of Republican primary voters.

The survey, conducted by The Glengariff Group Inc., polled 500 likely August 2022 Republican Primary voters between April 29 and May 1. Survey respondents were read the names of all 10 filed candidates in alphabetical order and asked who they would support as the GOP nominee for governor.

Nearly 45% of respondents said they don’t know yet who they’re voting for. But polling showed Craig, the former Detroit police chief, was the preferred candidate with 23% support from respondents. He was the only candidate with a double-digit lead.

Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor, came in second with 8.2% of support from respondents. Rinke, a Bloomfield Hills businessman, earned 5.6% of support from respondents. Just below that came Kelley, an Allendale real estate broker, at 5.4%; and Johnson, a Bloomfield Hills entrepreneur, at 5.2%.

Brown, Dixon, Markey Jr., Rebandt, and Brandenburg each garnered less than 3% of support from respondents, according to the survey results. See the entire survey here.

The Chamber noted that the debate lineup could be subject to change based on future polling, if “new, public, independent polling further identifies additional competitive candidates.”

The lineup could also change if the Board of State Canvassers rules on ongoing ballot petition challenges involving Craig, Johnson, and Dixon, the Chamber said.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” said Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, in a prepared statement. “We look forward to the candidates for Governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

The June 2 debate lineup was announced the same day that Republican candidates were scheduled for their first major debate ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

On Thursday night, eight of the 10 GOP candidates faced off during a debate at the Livingston County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Howell. All 10 candidates were invited to participate, but Craig and Brandenburg did not attend.

The gubernatorial hopefuls debated everything from school funding and curriculum to abortions, COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election.

Michigan’s GOP primary election is scheduled for Aug. 2.

The winner will challenge Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November’s general election.

View the entire article.

Detroit chamber limits field for Michigan GOP gubernatorial debate in June on Mackinac

Detroit Free Press
Dave Boucher
May 12, 2022

Only five of the 10 declared Republican candidates for governor were invited to participate in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s primary debate, slated for early June at the organization’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The chamber ultimately did not invite either of the two women running for the party’s nomination to participate in the debate, instead opting to go by the most well-known and supported candidates among recently surveyed Republican primary voters.

Candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano made the cut, according to a news release. But that means Tudor Dixon, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg, Ralph Rebandt, and Michael Markey won’t be onstage with their competitors.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in a statement. “We look forward to the candidates for governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

Every candidate invited to participate in the debate received at least 5% support in a recent poll conducted for the chamber. The remaining candidates were invited to the conference, but not to take part in the debate.

The chamber indicated it may change the debate lineup if a candidate drops out, is disqualified from the ballot, or if “new, public, independent polling” shows additional competitive candidates.

The chamber worked with the Michigan Republican Party to set its debate lineup based on a poll it commissioned. The party and chamber agreed to the questions in the poll and additional metrics used to set the debate field, according to the chamber’s announcement.

The poll was conducted by the Glengariff Group and surveyed 500 likely Republican primary voters between April 29 and May 1. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Although almost 45% of those surveyed said they were undecided, former Detroit police chief Craig garnered the most support of those with a preferred candidate at 23%.

Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor who has frequently come in second in Republican primary polls, earned 8.2% support. Bloomfield Hills businessman Rinke received 5.6%, Ottawa County realtor Kelley notched 5.4%, and Oakland County businessman Johnson obtained 5.2%.

No other candidate earned more than 5% in the poll.

The field is far from settled ahead of the Aug. 2 primary, but overcoming a substantial polling deficit at this point in the race could prove difficult. Dixon polled at less than 2%, despite being the only gubernatorial candidate named by former President Donald Trump during a recent visit to the state

Dixon earned the only praise among gubernatorial candidates when former President Donald Trump recently visited the state. But almost 43% of those surveyed said Trump’s endorsement was not important in helping them decide their preferred candidate, despite 81% saying they had a favorable opinion of the previous president.

The news comes the same day Republican candidates were set to square off in the first primary debate of the campaign season, hosted in Livingston County.

Craig, Johnson, and Dixon all face challenges to the signatures collected by their campaigns to place their names on the primary ballot. In Michigan, gubernatorial candidates must submit nominating petitions with at least 15,000 signatures, but there are questions about the veracity of thousands obtained by the Craig and Johnson campaigns and an incorrect date that appeared on Dixon’s nominating petitions.

The chamber’s debate is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on June 2.

View the entire article.

Tina Freese Decker

Tina Freese Decker is the president and chief executive officer of BHSH System—formed by the joining together of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health in 2022. She provides executive leadership for 22 hospitals, 300+ outpatient locations, 11,500+ physicians and advanced practice providers, 64,000+ team members, and a health plan, Priority Health, serving 1.2+ million members throughout Michigan. Prior to her current role, Decker served as president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Health.

Decker serves on the boards of the American Hospital Association, Business Leaders for Michigan, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. She is currently board chair of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and The Right Place. Her recent accolades include Crain’s Detroit Business’ 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan, Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare, and Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

Decker holds a Bachelor of Science in finance from Iowa State University and a Master of Health Administration and Master of Industrial Engineering from the University of Iowa.