Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, and Matt Elliott, President of Bank of America Michigan and Chair of the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference, penned an op-ed for The Detroit News to share why this year’s conference theme is important.
The Detroit News
May 29, 2023
Sandy K. Baruah and Matt Elliott
There is perhaps no state in the country that has more to gain — or to lose — in the coming decades than Michigan.
Our state is the brain center of the U.S. automotive industry during a once-in-a-century shift to electrification and autonomous mobility that will redefine how the world moves.
Surrounded by the Great Lakes’ beauty and freshwater resources, as well as a stable climate, Michigan stands to be the beneficiary of population growth as migrants flee increasingly volatile environments as climate change’s impact grows.
We are also one of the most racially diverse states, strengthened by our Black, Latino, Arab-American and the multitude of other populations that call Michigan home. Additionally, we strive — and have enacted policies — to be a welcoming state to all, regardless of who they pray to or whom they love.
Michigan has all of the ingredients to lead in the 21st century global economy — and in ways that are fully consistent with our prosperous past. The opportunities in next-generation mobility are an extension of the Michigan that put the world on wheels. Our history of technological leadership will fuel our next advancements.
First, however, we need to get out of our own way. Recent polling from the Detroit Regional Chamber showed that Michiganians do not embrace the value of a college degree and are not all that interested in the shift to electric vehicles.
For the rest of the 21st century, creating prosperity is not going to require skilled certifications or four-year degrees. It’s not going to be electric vehicles or some other technology. It’s going to require all of the above and more. The same “and” logic applies to every other complex challenge we face.
That is why the theme of the 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference is “the power of and.”
This year’s conference will challenge Michigan’s business, political and philanthropic leaders to adopt “the power of and” instead of “either-or” when it comes to policy solutions. It’s a way of thinking to guide us together as we move to address Michigan’s tremendous opportunities and challenges.
“The power of and” can bring otherwise polarized sides closer together to problem solve and deliver the results that Michiganians deserve.
The focus on the “and” approach is designed to create a healthy, productive tension among top Michigan and national leaders with different points of view on stage. Conversation will explore how Michigan can benefit from an “and” approach when it comes to individual freedom and collective action, sustainability and economic growth and investing in the future and financial responsibility.
“And” is so much more powerful than “or.”
“Either-or” thinking spreads quickly because it oversimplifies things and makes our world easier to understand — ideal for political gain. The problem is that it eliminates the nuance needed to make tough decisions and deliver creative solutions to complex problems.
The “either-or” dichotomy creates false choices. It creates “win-lose” options instead of “win-win” ones. It pits Michiganians against each other when we should be working together. Worst of all, it leaves us unprepared to respond to challenges and capitalize upon our 21st century opportunities.
Michigan has everything we need to succeed — strong work ethic, top-rate universities, recognized design leadership, natural beauty, diverse and vibrant communities and more.
However, we cannot maximize those resources while pitted against one another, or if we focus on looking through the rearview mirror versus through the windshield. Of course, we need to do this together.
Individual programs and initiatives are critical in advancing priorities like education, workforce development and infrastructure, but they must be reoriented as key elements of a broader strategy rather than standalone efforts. This will be the only way to shift Michigan’s culture to embrace the exciting future ahead.
Our goal for everyone attending the conference is to leave remembering one thing:
Simply put, AND wins.