Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Next Week’s Detroit Policy Conference Will Focus on Growing the City’s Population

Next Week’s Detroit Policy Conference Will Focus on Growing the City’s Population

January 4, 2024

Michigan Chronicle
Jan. 4, 2023
Ebony JJ Curry

As Jan. 11, 2024, approaches, the city of Detroit gears up for the highly anticipated Detroit Policy Conference. The Detroit Regional Chamber has been organizing its annual Detroit Policy Conference for over a decade. This year’s conference, under the seasoned leadership of Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. and Wayne State University Board of Governors member Shirley Stancato, promises to be a pivotal event in shaping Michigan’s demographic and economic future as the theme takes precedence, ‘Growing our Population.’

2023 Detroit Policy Conference Sound Board StageThe conference, scheduled to take place at the MotorCity Casino Hotel from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., is set against the backdrop of the comprehensive Growing Together Michigan report. This report, a central focus of the conference, outlines strategic initiatives aimed at boosting Michigan and Metro Detroit’s growth in population and business attractiveness.

At the forefront of the Detroit Policy Conference, Kimberly Espy from Wayne State University is set to deliver a compelling keynote. Her address will focus on the innovative strategies that the urban campus is employing to not only attract graduates to Detroit but also to retain them in the area. Espy’s insights are expected to shed light on how higher education institutions like Wayne State can play a pivotal role in fostering a vibrant, sustainable local workforce that contributes to the city’s overall growth and development.

Panel Discussion on Enhancing PreK-12 Education Outcomes

A highlight of the conference will be an in-depth panel discussion featuring prominent figures in education and community leadership. This panel includes Jeff Donofrio from Business Leaders for Michigan, Chandra Madafferi of the Michigan Education Association, Angelique Power from The Skillman Foundation, and Nikolai Vitti, representing Detroit Public Schools Community District. Collectively, they will delve into the recommendations set forth by the Growing Michigan Together Council’s Pre-K to 12 education workgroups.

This session promises to be a crucial conversation, focusing on strategies and initiatives aimed at improving educational outcomes for PreK-12 students in Michigan. The panelist’s diverse backgrounds and expertise will offer a multifaceted view of how education can be a cornerstone for long-term economic and social prosperity in the region. The discussion is expected to highlight innovative educational practices, community engagement, and policy reforms necessary to elevate the standards and results of PreK-12 education in Michigan.

Key Highlights of the Conference:

Diverse Panel of Influential Speakers: A lineup of distinguished speakers, including Linda Apsey, Dennis W. Archer Jr., Sandy K. Baruah, and many others, will provide insights spanning various sectors, from government to education, healthcare, and business.


2024 DPC speaker headshots


Focus on Policy and Growth: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer founded the Growing Michigan Together Council as a pivotal step towards shaping Michigan into an ideal home for all. The council’s mission is to devise a comprehensive statewide strategy focused on attracting and retaining talent, enhancing educational standards, updating and advancing transportation and water infrastructure to suit the demands of the 21st century, and sustaining Michigan’s economic growth. To spearhead this initiative, Gov. Whitmer appointed bipartisan co-chairs, Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. and Shirley Stancato, entrusting them with the responsibility of formulating policies and objectives that will contribute to the increase of Michigan’s population. The conference chairs, Rakolta and Stancato, bring their experience from leading the Governor’s Growing Michigan Together Council. Their expertise is crucial in discussing policy prescriptions, essential for attracting and retaining talent in Michigan.

“With this council we can ensure Michigan has the tools to make this state a place where families want to live, work, and build their lives,” said Rakolta Jr. “We’re focused on attracting young talent and building a statewide framework – through education and infrastructure – that will expand opportunity for every resident. I’m excited to work with the council to build on Michigan’s economic momentum.”

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The Broad Coalition’s Efforts: The event will also highlight the work of the Growing Michigan Together Council, first announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Chamber’s 2023 Mackinac Policy Conference. This coalition is dedicated to addressing Michigan’s critical challenge of population retention and growth.

“Creating a formal strategy to ensure Michigan creates jobs, students get the greatest benefits from education starting in pre-K, and upgrading our state’s infrastructure for every community will make Michigan a leader in attracting young talent and growing families,” said Stancato.

In-Depth Discussions: Topics will range from economic development strategies to educational initiatives, healthcare improvements, and infrastructure advancements, all aimed at making Michigan a more attractive destination for talent and businesses.

Networking Opportunities: Participants will have the opportunity to engage with policymakers, business leaders, and academic experts, fostering collaborations that could shape the future of Michigan’s economy.

Attendees networking at the 2023 Detroit Policy ConferenceTo conclude the Detroit Policy Conference, Mayor Mike Duggan will engage in a one-on-one discussion, focusing on the city’s initiatives and strategies aimed at stimulating growth and attracting new residents. This closing session will offer insights into the city’s plans and actions designed to enhance Detroit’s appeal as a vibrant and welcoming community.

A Call to Action: The 2024 Detroit Policy Conference is more than just a gathering of minds; it’s a call to action for all stakeholders in Michigan’s future. The findings and recommendations from the Growing Michigan Together Council, coupled with the insights from the conference speakers, are expected to set the stage for transformative growth in the state and the region.

For Black Detroiters, the initiatives and discussions at the Detroit Policy Conference are of immense importance in terms of job creation and opportunity expansion in all sectors, especially within the heart of the city. These discussions are crucial as they directly impact the economic and social fabric of the Black community in Detroit. The focus on attracting new residents and businesses, coupled with strategies for growth, presents potential for substantial job opportunities, entrepreneurial ventures, and community development. It is an opportunity to address historical economic disparities and to ensure that Black Detroiters are integral to and beneficiaries of Detroit’s resurgence. This is especially pertinent in sectors where Black representation has been traditionally limited, thereby opening doors for diversity in leadership and innovation.

However, this leads to a critical question: When we talk about growth and development in Detroit, is the focus predominantly on the downtown area, or is there a concerted effort to foster true growth across all of Detroit’s diverse communities? It’s essential to scrutinize whether these growth strategies are inclusive and equitable, ensuring that the benefits permeate beyond the bustling downtown to the broader neighborhoods where much of the Black population resides. This question underscores the need for a growth model that not only revitalizes the city’s core but also uplifts the surrounding communities, ensuring that the true spirit and diversity of Detroit are reflected in its growth narrative. Addressing this question is vital to guarantee that the resurgence of Detroit is a holistic one, bringing prosperity and opportunity to all its residents, particularly those in historically underserved Black communities.

Detroit and Michigan at large stand at a critical juncture, and this conference is a significant step toward ensuring a prosperous and vibrant future. All eyes are on Detroit as it hosts this vital event, poised to ignite a new era of growth and development in Michigan.