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President’s Letter: 28 Months is a Long Time

Mackinac Policy Conference….Finally!

When we first locked down and moved offices into our home dens or basements back in March 2020, we all thought this might last a long time…even weeks. Eighteen months later we have all come to the painful realization that what was expected to be weeks turned into months – and now even years. The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming an endemic – something we will have to learn to live with for quite some time.

Dealing with an endemic, in our mind, is to not hide forever in our basements or to pretend the health risk to ourselves and our neighbors is over. The Chamber has taken the stance since the earliest days of the crisis that the best way to retain and regain our economic and social normality is to do what is necessary to keep the virus at bay, which keeps the doors of our businesses open and customers comfortable walking through them. This is why the Detroit Regional Chamber took the lead in promoting masking in public spaces and now, increasing our vaccination rates.

This is the same ethos we used planning the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.

During the pandemic, society has witnessed not only the powerful impact of COVID-19, but also profound societal change, the growth of mass disinformation, ever more damaging political polarization, and the further decline of civility in our public discourse. These are some of the key factors that drove the Chamber to proceed with our first Mackinac Policy Conference in 28 months. The Conference is a public asset for Michigan. The ability to convene Michigan’s leading corporate, civic, and political leadership to have meaningful and civil conversations about where we are and where we are going has never been more important.

Getting the Protocols Right 

The pathway to a somewhat normal Conference has been abnormal. This year’s Conference will be the most public health-conscious major event in Michigan’s history. The Conference Planning Team – led by Wright L. Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System and his team, the Chamber Board, the statewide Conference CEO Advisory Committee and our Chamber team – worked hard to develop the protocols that allowed the Conference to move forward with conditions that made Michigan’s leaders feel comfortable.

As the CEO of the Chamber, I have been overwhelmed with the support and positive feedback I have received from Michigan’s business leadership for our handling of the Conference. Managing the protocols in any other way simply was not an option – the choice was to do this right or not at all.

The Chamber’s Unsung Leader 

Serving as chair of the Chamber is a three-year commitment. Given the primary role is to serve as my adult supervision, it is not always a picnic! But the greatest joy of our chairs is often to chair the Mackinac Policy Conference. This was not the case for Ryan Maibach, president and CEO of Barton Malow Holdings. Ryan’s term as our chair encompassed the planning, postponement, cancellation, and then rescheduling of not one, but two conferences – neither of which he got to execute.

Instead, Ryan’s time as chair was devoted to guiding the Chamber through one of the most difficult times in modern American history. Ryan gave selflessly throughout this entire period and did so combining great counsel and great humor. Both were needed. On behalf of the entire Chamber team and Board of Directors, I thank Ryan Maibach for his amazing service to the Chamber – and for his friendship.

Michigan is fortunate to have such high caliber leadership in business, government, education, philanthropy and education that are shaping our future. The Detroit Regional Chamber is proud to once again host them for the Mackinac Policy Conference.