Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > 2024 Conference’s Final Day: Creating a More Equitable, Prosperous Michigan

2024 Conference’s Final Day: Creating a More Equitable, Prosperous Michigan

May 30, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Peter Quigley, Kelly’s President and Chief Executive Officer, will Chair the 2025 Mackinac Policy Conference.
  • The Chamber has made significant progress to drive long-term societal and economic change.
  • The EV market is a lush market, but it will not continue to be if it becomes a political issue and not an economic issue.


Shank: “We Can Use Our Lanes of Influence to Create a More Equitable Society”

Shank opened the final day of the Conference by giving an update on the Chamber’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including data from the Detroit Resident Voices Survey, a first-of-its-kind data report in partnership with Gallup Center on Black Voices, which highlights Detroiters’ daily experiences, perceptions, and quality of life to identify and close equity gaps.

Opening her address, Shank dove into the importance of diverse representation throughout all sectors, citing verified data confirming that the more diversity at the table, the more innovative and prosperous Michigan can be.

“Diversity is well displayed on our stage, and we’re extremely proud of our lineup of speakers this year. I’m also honored to be the first Black woman Chair of the Mackinac Policy Conference,” she said.

“Representation matters on this stage, as it does in the C-suites, halls of political power, and where important decisions are being made. For women and people of color, this is important – because if we can see it, we can be it.”

Shank also provided an update on the Chamber’s workstreams of internal work, external programming, and leveraging regional convening power. These processes included appointing Marnita S. Harris as the Chamber’s first Vice President of Racial Justice and Economic Equity, improving Chamber board member diversity by 122%, and beginning building the second Detroit Resident Voices Survey.

“Supporting this survey is a great way to drive positive, meaningful change and can position Detroit as a national leader in closing racial equity gaps,” she said. “It’s also one way we can bridge the future together.”

Announcing the 2025 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair

In closing, Shank announced the 2025 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair, Peter Quigley, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Kelly.

“He’s been a great ambassador for the Chamber and has taken a hands-on approach in helping our Region and state shape its talent future,” Shank said. “He leads the CEO Talent Council, which provides strategic direction to the Chamber’s education and talent portfolio, and he’s been a key voice as we work to increase educational attainment and maintain the talent pipeline businesses need to compete.”

Related: Chamber Announces Peter Quigley as the 2025 Mackinac Policy Conference Chair

Baruah: “The Global Automotive Industry is Transitioning to Electrification”

Baruah also took to the stage to discuss the “Era of Misinformation” regarding the automotive industry’s electrification shift and the value of postsecondary education—two issues of importance to Michigan’s future economy.

While he agrees that EVs certainly aren’t for everyone, Baruah invited the audience to think about the potential market for EVs today, such as upper-middle-class families. He also warned about foreign EV competition coming into the U.S., hoping we learned our lesson from the 1970s and 1980s about ignoring competition.

“The Chinese are coming. They’re already making significant inroads in other parts of the world, particularly Europe and Latin America,” he said. “…what the Chinese made a decade or even five years ago is a far cry from what they’re making today. They have the best designers in the world working for Chinese companies, and they are an incredible, serious threat to our industry.”

Baruah on Postsecondary Education: “No Issue is More Important” For Michigan’s Trajectory

Baruah then shifted the conversation to the value of postsecondary education in Michigan, saying that when it comes to Michigan’s future economic and social trajectory, no issue is more important. In the Chamber and the Glengariff Group’s latest Michigan Voter Poll results, only 19% feel that a college degree is the minimum education it takes to support a family in Michigan going forward, but the data shows otherwise. Further, senior executives and industry leaders have publicly said their companies will go where the talent is.

“Their heart may be in Michigan, but their business demands may take them somewhere else if we can’t supply the necessary skills and talent,” he said.

Further, voters also believe students graduate with more debt than they do. Baruah also debunked that myth, using Wayne State University as an example.

“Nearly 60% think student loan debt for Wayne State graduates is over $50,000,” he said. “In reality, nearly half of Wayne State graduates have zero debt. And those with debt carry less than $25,000.”