The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People – and The Fight for Our Future

Alec Ross, New York Times best-selling author and former senior advisor of innovation for the State Department, closed out the 2021 Conference on Thursday. Ross took the stage with Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto, and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber, to share his newly released book, “The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People – and The Fight for Our Future,” discussing the intersection of business, government, and everyday people.

Ross, who spent six years working for the Obama administration, presented some key themes from his book, including the intersection of government and citizens, and the web-work of collaboration between the two.

“It’s a web-work of collaboration and exchange between the private sector, government, and citizens,” said Ross.

And while the system is interconnected, Ross noted that if you scratch at the surface of this collaboration and exchange, you can begin to see the flaws. At the core of his book is “the quiet interplay we see in just our normal day, some of what we see, increasingly is that the social contract seems not to be working. There seems to be a loss of equilibrium in the relationship between government, citizens, and businesses.”

The forces behind this dis-equilibrium are a key element of the book. The decade we are currently living through can be compared to that of the roaring 20s, a time marked by war and sickness, but also spectacular innovations in literature, arts, and the economy, that ended in economic collapse.

“This decade of ours, the 2020s, is one where we are in this moment of remarkable transition and the choices that we make over the next few decades are going to determine if this decade ends up raging like anger, or raging like a great party,” said Ross.

But this moment of transition is not unique to our country, moments like this have occurred frequently throughout history. Take for instance the period of industrialization, when technology-enabled work to go from farm to factory. And what made industrialization work was rewriting the social contract.

“As we transition from our industrial economy into an increasingly technology-rich, knowledge-based economy…all of us have to be life-long learners,” noted Ross. “We have all to be continual learners, but our model of education is still rooted in the norms of the first 20 years of the 20th century.”

Essential to this transition will be the innovation within our public policy, and the data that is the raw material of today and tomorrow’s economy. In our current and future economy, those who control and own the data, and can harvest meaning from the data will be those that will create the industries of the future.

Noted Ross, “90% of the world’s data, since human beings have been on two feet was created in the last two years.”

And the pandemic has only accelerated digitization and industries that we were once thought of as historic or old, are being propelled forward with the help of data.

“In the last 30 years, the richest one percent has grown 21 trillion dollars wealthier, while the lowest 50 percent has lost 900 billion dollars,” said Ross. “Middle class is stagnated – this is what is at the heart of a lot of the rage out there.”

And what Ross offers in his book are the differing elements that go into this, and draws out key themes across labor, taxes, and capitalism.

Root: Bracelets aside, connections still matter at Mackinac

Crain’s Detroit Business 
Sep. 23, 2021
Kelley Root

MACKINAC ISLAND — In the end, the color-coded bracelets didn’t matter.

Hugs and handshakes — sheer habit, really — mostly won out over carefully calibrated COVID protocols at the first in-person Mackinac Policy Conference in 28 months.

Vaccines were required. Masks were (sometimes) in place. Bowls of rubber bracelets invited attendees to signal their level of comfort with contact — green (hugs/handshakes OK), yellow (fist or elbow bumps only) and red (back off, buddy.)

I took one of each. As a first-time Mackinac attendee, it seemed prudent to be prepared for anything — or anyone.

Inside of an hour, all that was out the window.

It’s human nature. When you see friends, colleagues and business associates in real life after 18 months of interminable Zoom calls, nobody’s checking under suit coat sleeves for a green light to go in for a hug. Many just … do.

So goes the new world of networking — and “normal” business interaction in the pandemic age.

Was it necessary to convene this year for cocktails, canapes and schmoozing on the storied porch of the Grand Hotel? Maybe not. Plenty of folks skipped the downsized conference this year for plenty of legitimate reasons: COVID concerns, corporate optics, schedule conflicts.

But Mackinac is more than a social event. It’s a signal that Michigan is still open for business, and that the state’s very real problems — infrastructure, equity, education, labor shortages — aren’t simply sleeping until the pandemic goes away. Like or not, policy is still made in person, and building relationships matters.

“It feels good to be back,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, sporting both green and red bracelets, said during her keynote address Wednesday. “It’s definitely different, but it feels good to be back.” She added: “I’ve got both wristbands.”

So maybe the bracelets were overkill. Or silly. We’re making it up as we go, trying to feel our way forward, socializing with no roadmap. The point is to try.

The theme of normalizing life amid pandemic was echoed by author and economist Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in his own conference address earlier Wednesday.

“We need to learn to live with this,” Florida said of the pandemic. “We not only need to learn to live with it, we need an intentional and purposeful strategy… I call this a great urban reset. Covid 19 is not a disruptor, it’s an accelerator.

“We will survive this, and not just all of us. Our cities. Detroit will survive this.”

It was an upbeat message for an audience looking for a way forward.

I joined Crain’s Detroit Business on March 16, 2020 — the day we all went home due to COVID. I’ve met plenty of business leaders via Zoom since then, and at a few small, subdued events. We’ve done some valuable and creative virtual programming, and will continue to do so.

But nothing beats human connection — and the chance to meet those Zoom contacts in real life.

Here’s hoping we can all stay healthy in the meantime.

View the original article.

Evening View: Mackinac Uncensored Tackles Michigan’s Hot-Button Topics

For the fourth year, the Conference brought together some of Michigan’s most prominent thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds to engage in spirited banter on the state’s most critical issues. This year’s topics were:

Employer Vaccine Mandates 

In the coming weeks, there will be an official announcement from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the vaccination mandate, said Plunkett Cooney’s Dennis Cowan. Regardless of lawsuits that arise from the implementation, Cowan’s advice to employers is to get their plan to comply with the OSHA terms. 

Jared Fleisher, vice president of government affairs and economic development for Rock Central and the Family of Companies, had the same policy implemented in their offices several weeks prior to President Biden’s announcement. Fleisher reiterated that this isn’t a mandate for vaccination, there is an option for testing. 

Rock companies is currently testing around 2,300 employees across the United States.  

The policy itself equalizes all employers. When all employers have to use the same rules regarding vaccinations, there is no concern that employees will move on to other employers that don’t require vaccinations or tests, Cowan said.  

“At the end of the day, everyone wants to see this pandemic over as soon as possible,” Cowan said. 

The Future of Talent and DE&I 

“Diversity in talent is a necessity, it makes business sense,” said Dan Garrison, Detroit office managing director at Accenture, which sponsored Evening View: Mackinac Uncensored in a segment hosted by Dennis W. Archer Jr., Chief Executive Officer, Ignition Media Group and founding partner of Archer Corporate Services. 

This conversation came from the most recent conversations regarding the talent pipeline in relation to the new push for diversity in the workplace.  

Garrison runs an apprenticeship program that focuses on underprivileged areas and matches students with employers and provides them necessary education to complete a job they weren’t qualified for prior, leading to a more robust talent pipeline in a market with labor shortages.  

Ronia Kruse, president and Chief Executive Officer, OpTech, LLC and OpTech Solutions said that we are not reaching diverse children early enough in our education system. She wants to start more intense STEM programs earlier in the school system, exposing kids to the future of our labor market.  

When asked how she has retained her diverse employees and what she advises employers to do, Kruse recommends providing wraparound services and advancement opportunities to diverse candidates.  

Garrison personally spoke with every single diverse employer at Accenture, saying that what he heard was eye-opening but important in understanding the true problems that diverse employers face.  

Final Five Voting 

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations Brad Williams moderated an Evening View session focused on Final Five Voting with co-founders of Esys Automation and Final Five Michigan, Scott Claxton and Chris Marcus. During the panel, Claxton and Marcus discussed their transition from the business world into the sphere of “political innovation.” 

The friends and co-founders developed the idea of Final Five voting and introduced it for the first time at the Conference. This method counters the current voting process that relies on 25% of registered voters to decide 75% of elected officials during the primary voting process, according to the co-founders. 

“What we’re proposing is open up the primary,” Claxton said. “Allow everybody to vote in the primary. Allow everybody to vote their values in the primary. Allow everybody to vote across the piece of paper [Democratic and Republican] in the primary.” 

The way Final Five voting would work is that after registered voters vote in the primary, the top five vote winners move forward to the general election. Claxton said this ensures more voices get to participate and are reflected in the general election. And rather than just two options in the general election, voters will see five and use rank choice voting to decide the ultimate winner. Rank choice voting ensures the candidate who wins has 50% or greater support as opposed to plurality voting, which is today’s method. 

“Our candidates today are trapped in a system that dictates how they operate. It’s in their best interest to appeal to the party first, not to the voters first. And we want to change that. Our business experience tells us if our business system is broken, we can interchange people all day long. And we’re going to see pretty much the same results over and over again. You’ve got to fix the system, and we can do that with this Final Five voting,” Marcus said. 

Currently, Marcus and Claxton are garnering support from people across the political spectrum for Final Five voting. Connect with them to learn more at 

Women on Corporate Boards 

Zoe Clark, program director of Michigan Radio, moderated a session with Portia Roberson, president and chief executive officer of Focus Hope, and David Parent, managing partner of Deloitte. During the panel, Roberson and Parent discussed the presence, or lack thereof, of women on boards and actions people can take to get more women and minorities on boards. This session continued the conversation Carla Walker-Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Walker-Miller Energy LLC, had during today’s session Racial Equity in the Workplace.  

Parent shared how Deloitte conducted a study about the percentage of women on boards of directors with the Alliance for Board Diversity. It looked at long-term data from 2004 to 2020 and showed that there has been progress among Fortune 500 companies over the years. Currently, 41% of board positions are held by women or minorities with a positive trajectory, according to Parent.  

There are also seven states that enacted legislation to add more women and minorities in the board room, which aligns with the positive trajectory of diversifying the board. 

“When you talk about needing to enact legislation to force boards to diversify, it really speaks to how much resistance it is to it. The problem to that resistance is it doesn’t serve anyone well. Women sitting on corporate boards give you the kind of knowledge you need to promote what you’re selling. More so than legislation is how it hits your pocket. When you make that mistake because you didn’t have any women, any Black people on your board, you pay for it. You can eliminate that and avoid that by having a diverse board and diverse voices,” Roberson said. 

Voting Rights 

In the most recent presidential election, there were assertions about the election being stolen that brought up questions about voting rights and voting security. With a package of bills up for vote, moving in a bipartisan direction will be key, State Representative Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), and Nancy Kaffer, columnist for the Detroit Free Press, sat down to discuss opinions from both sides of the aisle.   

There is a package of bills before the State House of Representatives and Senate that addresses possible changes to voting requirements, including showing a photo ID to get a ballot and a ban on mailing absentee ballot applications.  

As a State Representative, Lilly noted that, “We do our best to reassure our constituents that elections in Michigan are free and fair…but we have identified a number of issues in the process that we think can be better.” 

A recent poll showed that 88% of people feel that voting is a right and that there shouldn’t be additional impediments to voting in an election. 

When asked about that poll, Lilly argued that while no one is trying to suggest that voting itself is not a right, that “we have to make sure that when are deciding whether or not they are going to the poll…that they feel like when they get there their vote is counted appropriately, and I think that’s what this is really about.” 

Kaffer seconded that it’s important to make sure our elections are free and fair but contended that they already are.  

“There is no widespread fraud, no one has been prosecuted for voting fraud…that hasn’t happened in years,” said Kaffer. “So trying to pass a bunch of rules that make it harder to vote in elections that are already safe and secure…you have to ask what the real point of that is.” 

Lilly noted that he doesn’t think they are suggesting changing the whole system and agreed that there’s not systemic fraud in our system but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t clean up certain points to clear up election perception problems. 

The session was moderated by Rick Pluta, senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Public Radio Network. 

Rebuilding Urban Cities 

Grand Rapids and Detroit are moving through a period of transformation, and inspiring smaller cities in Michigan to the process. Rick Baker, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., sat down to discuss what their organizations have done to promote positive growth in their respective cities.  

“The key to our success has been significant corporate investment,” said Johnson. “Without critical mass, downtowns won’t work. So, to be able to attract retail was facilitated by large corporate investments.”  

As for Grand Rapids, the city has experienced the ‘pebble effect’ where one large project sends ripples through the whole city, resulting in rapid development made possible through strong partnerships. 

Noted Baker, “Strong partnerships between government and business, with business leading the effort. They want to make a community that people want to live in and bring their business too.” 

One key priority of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. has been investing in not only downtown, but also the neighborhoods. 

“Detroit is a city built on neighborhoods, with strong neighborhoods anchoring the city. If the neighborhoods don’t work, downtown doesn’t work,” said Johnson. “If you invest in neighborhoods, commercial development and retail development will follow.” 

When asked what advice he has for smaller cities moving toward a rebuild, Johnson noted the importance of sticking to their core fundamentals.  

2022 Election Roundtable 

With another election around the corner, Mark Burton, partner at Honigman LLP, and former chief strategist for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Matthew Schneider, partner at Hongiman LLP, and former United States Attorney for the Trump Administration, joined the Conference to discuss the political climate moving out of one our country’s most divisive elections. 

Schneider opened by noting the importance of having open dialogues, “I hope that we aren’t on a downward trend…that we can bring back civility, I think a conference like this can get that conversation started.” 

Historically, incumbents in Michigan tend to fair well. The last time an incumbent governor lost an election was back when James Blanchard lost the race. And in 2019, Gov. Whitmer was able to navigate her primary very effectively winning every county. 

But narrowing down the top candidates to go head-to-head with Gov. Whitmer, will come down to who is most connected, who has the most money, and who will appeal to both sides. 

“I think Chief Craig is in the strongest position,” said Schneider. “He has the ability to bring money into this race and that more populist approach that I think will do him well.” 

“I think the primary is going to continue to push on that extreme part of the spectrum. I do agree that there will be two or three highly competitive ones moving into the primary,” said Burton. “The bigger picture is how extreme do they go.”  

When asked about the House and Senate, Burton noted that there are opportunities for Democrats in both, but it is likely too early to determine exactly who will fare better.  

But Burton added that, “The top of the ticket is going to be strong. I think President Biden’s numbers are going to be well above where they are…I think when federal resources began hitting the streets, not just in Michigan but across the country, the numbers will begin going up.”  

This program was sponsored by Accenture.

Detroit Regional Chamber Releases 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List

First Conference in 28 months concludes after focusing on Reimagining a Healthy Michigan.

MACKINAC ISLAND, MICH. (Sept. 23, 2021) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber unveiled its 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List following three days of discussions featuring top state, regional, and national thought leaders. In its 41st year, the Conference convened leaders in a dialogue on “reimagining a healthy Michigan” under the pillars: accelerate our COVID-19 economic recovery, advance racial justice and equity, and invest in the health of people and communities.

2021 Conference Chairman Wright L. Lassiter III, president and chief executive officer of Henry Ford Health System, and Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber, announced the list at the conclusion of the Conference.

The To-Do-List items include:

  • Bring together business, philanthropy, civic/nonprofit, and government to accelerate data-based collective action to close racial and social equity gaps throughout the Detroit Region.
  • Support measures to help employers deploy strategies to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on community health and the economy.
  • Help businesses understand how COVID-19 has permanently changed work life and the workplace so employers can adapt and prepare for a changed environment.
  • Ensure the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference includes a robust representation of bipartisan elected leaders.
  • Capitalize on the Chamber’s education data assets, such as the State of Education report, to encompass the type of research highlighted by professor Raj Chetty that showed the connection between upward mobility and job growth.

The Detroit Regional Chamber announced Arn Tellem, vice chairman of Pistons Sports and Entertainment (PS&E), as Chairman of the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference and First Vice Chair of the Chamber in June.

Tellem will lead an advisory committee of Michigan-based CEOs and Chamber leadership to develop the theme and the agenda for next year’s event, which will take place Tuesday, May 31, through Friday, June 3, 2022, on Mackinac Island.

About the Mackinac Policy Conference
The Mackinac Policy Conference – the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual statewide event – convenes Michigan’s most influential audience to engage in collaborative dialogue on the state’s economic future. Since 1981, the Conference has provided a unique-in-the-nation experience for Michigan’s top business, government, and civic leaders. As Michigan’s premier policy event, the Conference attracts attendees annually to discuss key issues facing the state. The Conference concludes with an actionable To-Do List that transforms dialogue into positive outcomes to create a more business-friendly climate in Michigan. To learn more, visit

American Rescue Funds: How Michigan is Ensuring Equitable Allocations

Key Takeaways:

  • The American Rescue Plan (ARP) rules are projected to be finalized in the fall.
  • ARP recipients will not be penalized for allocating funds based on the interim rules.
  • A top priority for ARP funds is making sure they are distributed to communities most in need.

The panel was moderated by David Egner, president and chief executive officer of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, and it consisted of Alize Asberry Payne, racial equity officer for Washtenaw County; Kyle Caldwell, president and chief executive officer of the Council of Michigan Foundations; and Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties.

These experts discussed the upcoming ARP funding that will be distributed across the United States “to provide direct relief to Americans, contain the COVID-19, and rescue the economy,” according to

Through the ARP, the State of Michigan will receive more than $10 billion. Egner shared that this amount will be distributed directly in four ways: to the state, counties, municipalities, and school systems.

What’s unique about this unprecedented release of funds and its distribution method is that none of the recipients will be required to coordinate with one another about how the $10 billion is spent. The rules for how the money can be spent are also not finalized.

While recipients will not be penalized for spending the money based on the interim rules, Currie recommends they act cautiously with how they allocate and spend it until the rules are finalized later this fall.

“We’ve been counseling folks to be pragmatic, to be slow with these funds. You have three years to allocate them, five years to spend them,” Currie said.

Recipients are also encouraged to only spend the funds on one-time capital investments—nothing that requires an ongoing investment.

Because there are so many questions currently unanswered and to help recipients along the process, the Michigan Association of Counties has pre-qualified four vendors to help with ARP funding, whether it’s reporting or getting a red-light/green-light. The vendors have prior experience with assisting Michigan counties with CARES Act funding.

Another important element of ARP funding discussed was how recipients will ensure their allocation decisions are equitable and directly impacted by communities who have been affected by COVID-19.

“I think starting from a place of, who are the people who are usually at the decision-making table, and if they’re the only people in the room, you don’t have a diverse enough perspective. And so, really reaching into the communities that have historically been underrepresented, and from the day that we know, have been disproportionately impacted,” said Payne.

Caldwell believes recipients getting to know and work with partners in different sectors who know their members well is an excellent opportunity to bring the community’s needs into sharper focus. He also recommends working with the business community to create thoughtful conversations and make sure that decisions are informed by the constituents that each community wants to positively affect.

Individuals can also reach out to their county commissioners to influence what happens locally.

“The beauty of these funds are that they are at the local level. You see these folks at coffee shops, so in your communities, you can go talk to them. You can be a lobbyist,” Currie said.

This session was hosted by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

Richard Florida: The Shift from the ‘Last Relic of the Industrial Age’ to Remote Work

Key Takeaways

  • Remote work is the future of businesses in urban areas.
  • The United States is looking at a massive repositioning of all central businesses.
  • Remote work and social, economic, and racial divides are accelerators of the pandemic.

“When I think about the future of greater Detroit, I think about a place that’s a federation of complete communities. Not a place where work and life is separated and there’s giant commutes. But, where people live in complete communities, or 15-minute neighborhoods, where you can live, work, shop, play, send your kids to school,” Richard Florida, author of “The New Urban Crisis” and professor at the University of Toronto, said.

Florida discussed the new urban crisis and what life in urban areas is like before and after the pandemic during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference. During his address, Florida deemed this crisis and shift in urban life the “great urban reset.”

“Urbanization is the greatest force of human history,” Florida said. “It is the fundamental driver of economic growth, and previous pandemics have not dented it. What we have here is a once-in-a-century opportunity to build back our communities, our metro region.”

Florida suggests businesses in Metro Detroit take advantage of this opportunity by adapting to the new way talent likes to work: remotely. He calls the shift to remote work the single biggest accelerator in the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, 5% of all workdays were completed remotely. After the pandemic, it is projected that more than 20% of all working days will be done remotely. That means 80% of the time, people will still be commuting to the office or on-site to work. However, Florida said that is still a significant shift that businesses need to prepare to accommodate.

“We are looking at a massive repositioning of all central businesses, and you need to be thinking about positioning Detroit for this. You need to be thinking about how best you can equip your cities, suburbs, and rural areas to build what I would call—not office work ecosystems or work from home ecosystems—remote work ecosystems,” Florida said.

Florida called central business districts “the last relic of the industrial age,” akin to the previously popular factory workspaces during industrialization. His suggestion is to turn those districts into a central social district or connectivity district to appeal to younger workers who still want to go to downtown areas to socialize and connect with others they do not see during the workday.

Florida also cited social, economic, and racial divides as an accelerator of the pandemic.

“African Americans have been 2.5 times more likely to die, five times more likely to be hospitalized during this pandemic. People with a college degree are five times more likely to be able to do remote work than someone who graduated high school. The pandemic has merely exposed the economic, social, and racial divides that have long haunted us as a region and as a country,” Florida said.

Reimagining Connectivity in Michigan and the Role of Autonomous Vehicles

Key Takeaways: 

  • Today, Sept. 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Lake Michigan EV Circuit, an extensive vehicle charging network along Lake Michigan. The nation’s first electrified road will wirelessly charge electric vehicles.
  • Over the last five years there have been great advancements to vehicle technology, however, infrastructure has not experienced those same advancements, creating a challenge.
  • Over a year ago, the state of Michigan partnered with technology company, Cavnue, to create the state’s first smart corridor. Cavnue chose Michigan for its leadership in autonomy.
  • Part of improving connectivity and the autonomous experience, will require cameras along the roadway to help build insights. Camera footage will generate a large amount of data, creating a need for fiber connectivity, which is where internet companies like Comcast Business come in.

The pressures of the pandemic inspired new ways to accelerate sustainable prosperity, connect underserved communities, and protect the health and safety of Michigan’s most vulnerable residents. In a conversation at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference, Paul W. Smith, host of WJR NewsTalk 760 AM, and futurists, Marc Siry, vice president of strategic development and complex solutions for Comcast Business, and Mark de la Vergne, vice president of project development of Cavnue, explored the ways that Michigan is reimagining connectivity and the role of autonomous vehicles, and how it ties into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent announcement.

Today, Sept. 22, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Lake Michigan EV Circuit, the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road. This new roadway is just one piece of the infrastructure plans in Michigan, with Cavnue, a technology company founded a year ago, partnering with the state to builder smarter and safer roads through the development of one of the first smart corridors.

And while advancements in vehicles over the last five years has aided in the move to safer roadways, there are challenges in the journey to safely connecting Michigan residents.

Noted de la Vergne, “The challenge is that the infrastructure has not made those same advances, you know. You look at a road from 1950 and it’s pretty much the same road that exists in 2021. And that’s going to be a tremendous challenge to really unlock all the potential of the technology there.”

Infrastructure: The Key to Safer Vehicles and Roadways 

The key element of this equation is infrastructure, and for long-time partner and investor with the state of Michigan, Comcast, infrastructure is engrained in all they do.

“We thought that Cavnue’s vision of a connected roadway really meshed with Comcast’s goal of making sure that we are able, to bring the best connectivity … to the residents of Michigan and make sure they have all the connectivity they need and are able to access the services that are going to improve their lives, their health, their safety, and their prosperity,” Siry said.

Cavnue’s vision for roadways and autonomous vehicles is to simplify the road and provide information to vehicles on the road to unleash a “hands-off, minds-off experience,” that will result in safer travel.

Cavnue is working toward this goal is through infrastructure and technology, specifically through enhanced roads. They are building a digital twin that will be the smarts of what’s happening on the road to provide information to vehicles when road hazards are ahead.

Why Michigan? 

“Michigan was chosen basically because of leadership. The state was very forward with regards to its original autonomous vehicles policy it passed in 2016. And mobility and AVs are a pretty bipartisan issue…and I think everyone realizes the need to continue to innovate to keep the industry here,” de la Vergne said.

Comcast and Autonomous Vehicles 

In Michigan, Comcast is already working with state agencies to provide fiber connectivity to traffic cameras to allow for higher resolution imagery anticipate where there may be hazards in the road to dynamically redirect traffic patterns and address roadway issues.

Added Siry, “That’s a glimmer of the vision that Cavnue has to have the road inform the vehicle and to make travel much safer, much more sustainable, and much more prosperous for the people of Michigan.”

As cameras are added along the roadway will help build insights, fiber connectivity will be necessary to handle the large amount of data that will be created.

“We are excited about the new monetization opportunities that will come with these roadways that will allow us to extend the connectivity to parts of the state that have been underserved by connectivity in the past,” Siry said.

This session was hosted by Comcast Business.

Fix the Road Ahead: Gov. Whitmer on Michigan’s Path Forward

Key Takeaways:

  • Michigan’s economy is making a once-in-a-generation recovery:
    • The unemployment rate is below the national average, down for eight months straight.
    • Personal income was up 19.1%, the fourth-highest in the nation.
    • Projected $3.5 billion surplus.
    • GDP grew 7.6%.
  • A proposed $2.1 billion dollar investment in the MI New Economy seeks to focus on growing the middle class, supporting small businesses, and investing in communities.
  • Gov. Whitmer is set to sign a bipartisan budget that will include $500 for the state’s rainy day fund, fund Michigan Reconnect, expand child care, and more.

Shortly after announcing plans for the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit, the nation’s first electrified road to wirelessly charge electric vehicles, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took Michigan’s Center Stage at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Even with significant challenges to surmount and public divide, the state of Michigan is currently poised for a once-in-a-generation recovery, with unemployment below the national average, a rise in personal income, and an influx of federal funds to invest in the state. But, the Governor stressed that overcoming such challenges takes understanding, compassion, and curiosity without judgment.

“Bringing together people, communities, businesses, so we can get things done. It’s that core mission that brought me into the public space in the first place – to serve the state I love and deliver changes that makes a real difference in people’s lives,” said Gov. Whitmer.

Since 2019, the state has:

  • Invested in 15,000 automotive jobs.
  • Created Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners.
  • Created 150 jobs and brought supply chain from China to Michigan to solve the chip shortage.
  • Invested $17 billion in education.
  • Invested $3.5 billion investment in state roads, bringing an influx of jobs.

Adds Gov. Whitmer, “We all need to tackle these big structural challenges, by growing Michigan’s economy, creating good-paying jobs, and building industries of the future. Together, let’s harness our potential to usher in a new era of prosperity for the state we all love.”

MI New Economy Plan

While the economy has rebounded, there are still large structural challenges that must be tackled. As part of her recently unveiled, MI New Economy plan, the focus will turn to growing the middle class, supporting small businesses, and investing in communities with a proposed $2.1 billion investment.

“I want to work with you, the legislature, and anyone who wants to empower Michigan’s families, communities, and small businesses,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We have an incredible opportunity right now.”

The How: Moving Michigan Forward

Over the last year, the political divide has grown wider as our nation faced the culmination of a variety of issues: political violence, racial reckoning, a recession, disinformation, and more. As the state becomes increasingly divided, listening and compromising becomes increasingly important.

“I’m a firm believer in our democracy itself. I know that despite its faults, it’s worth fighting for. And most of all, I am a believer in people,” Gov. Whitmer said. “Acknowledging the fact that we have so much in common is important because it makes it harder to excuse why we’re so divided.”

Gov. Whitmer stressed that she will work with anyone to get things done for the state of Michigan, to fix the roads and bridges, to improve access to child care, and overall understand voters’ needs.

Happening Now: Bipartisan State Budget

Currently, the legislature is working on passing a bipartisan budget that Gov. Whitmer will sign next week. The budget will:

  • Put $500 million into a rainy-day fund for Michigan.
  • Fund Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners.
  • Expand child care to 105,000 more children.
  • Repair over 100 bridges.

While passing a bi-partisan budget with a 35-0 vote is historic and will move the needle on core issues that the state needs to address, passing the state budget is only step one. In fact, the state has $3 billion for schools in the general fund and $7 billion in the American Rescue Plan, which is yet to be deployed.

Added Gov. Whitmer, “There is so much opportunity here and that’s why we wanted to work so closely with the business community and stakeholder groups to make sure the economic plan is centered on the things…that really move the needle and set on that path.”

This session was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Robert C. O’Brien and Michael Steele Examine Today’s Republican Party

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways

  • President Donald Trump’s legacy looks much like that of Ronald Reagan: no new wars on his watch, he attracted working-class Democrats, and lowered taxes, O’Brien argued.   
  • Steele countered that the GOP “has become a party that talks less about what we believe in – on taxes, infrastructure, and health care” – and resorts to “lay blame on Democrats for his or that. That’s not leadership; it’s a bar fight.” 
  • What do the demographics of future Republican voters look like? No one seems to know, because the pool of so-called moderate centrist candidates seems to be shrinking in both parties.  

Detroit Regional Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy K. Baruah moderated an animated discussion during the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday, Sept. 22, about the Republican Party’s present and future with Robert C. O’Brien, former U.S. National Security Advisor during the Trump Administration; and Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee Chairman, former Lieutenant Governor of the State of Maryland, and current MSNBC political analyst. 

O’Brien argued that wokeness and cancel culture have become weaknesses for Democrats and rallying cries for Republicans; Steele said that GOP suffers from wokeness itself, disparaging U.S. Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming ) for “standing on principle for what they believe.” 

After a mostly congenial back-and-forth exchange between O’Brien and Steele about the future of the Republican Party in the wake of Donald Trump’s one-term presidency, both men indicated that they expect to stay actively engaged in the nation’s fractious political future. 

Baruah asked each about their future plans. 

Steele acknowledged that he’s exploring a possible run for governor in Maryland, where Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will leave office after winning two terms as a moderate Republican in a mostly Democratic state. 

Steele said he has not yet decided about running in 2022 and conceded that he might have difficulty prevailing in a Republican primary. “What does it mean,” he asked, “to be a Republican in the 21st century?” Then he added with a wry smile, “Remember the Whigs? Nobody does.”   

O’Brien, whose name has been floated as a possible 2024 candidate for president, didn’t directly answer Baruah’s question about a presidential run, stating only that his political focus for the next year and a half will be helping House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) become Speaker of the House after the mid-term elections.  

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference. 

Walsh College offers free walk-in COVID vaccine clinics in October

What: Free walk-in COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccine clinics

Who: Hosted by Walsh College and administered by the Oakland County Health Department

Why: To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Who should attend: Clinics are open to individuals age 12 and older in the community. Anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

When: Oct. 4-7, 2021 from 4-6 p.m. and Oct. 25-28, 2021 from 4-6 p.m. No appointment needed.

Where: Walsh College, Barry Center lobby, 3838 Livernois Rd., Troy, MI 48083

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Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, data analytics, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (