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Notes From The Island

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Matt Roush reporting

Just another lousy day in paradise here at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference. The Grand Hotel, built in 1887 in the post-Civil War Gilded Age, is as magnificent as ever. Not much has changed here since last year. Not much should, in my opinion.

Organizers of this year’s event promised us a stripped-down program with far fewer breakout sessions, with dense-packed content in the Grand Hotel’s 900-seat main theater, and that’s just what we’re getting.

That theater has been substantially spiffed up technologically. Its walls and ceiling are still pale pink, its carpet is still a screaming red and green floral. But this year the chamber tricked it out with five giant-screen TVs, including one the entire width of the stage, like one of those 70-millimeter super wide screen movies.

The chamber and the Grand continue to treat the press corps ridiculously well. The Media Center is in a smaller theater called the Terrace Room has seats for around 100 reporters, and is equipped with both wired and wireless Internet, endless coffee and soft drinks, incredible meals, and of course, around 5 p.m. they trot out the beer and wine. After some struggles early in the 2000s, the Grand now has reliable, fast wireless Internet service — by my latest test, 26 milliseconds ping, 8.45 megabits per second download and 1.23 megabits per second upload. The hard-wired service is even faster — a blistering 22.39 megabits per second download and 8.56 megabits per second up.

Favorite hotel scene so far: Grand Hotel president R.D. “Dan” Musser III personally toting the suitcase of a conference-goer Thursday night whose reservation had apprently been fouled up. When introducing himself, he said simply, “I’m with the hotel.” His family has owned the joint since 1979. Level 5 servant leadership, anyone? What a terrific example.

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