Fifteen hundred Michiganders are headed home from Mackinac Island with homework.

In the final official session of the 2011 Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder, conference chairman and Meritor Inc. CEO Charles “Chip” McClure and chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah talked over seven conference “to dos” that will be worked on over the next year, until it’s time for the 2012 conference.

In order of presentation, the action items were as follows:

1. Improve collaboration between East Michigan and West Michigan businesses and “key institutions.” This year’s conference featured unprecedented participation from representatives from central, west and northern Michigan. Said Baruah: “We are one state. We are going to sink or swim as one state.”

2. Incorporate Michigan’s leading and more promising clusters into the regional economic development strategy. While maintaining that  government economic policy should not “pick winners and losers,” the three men said it makes sense to concentrate efforts on the most promising industries.

3. Work with Harvard University professor Michael Porter to convene the Great Lakes governors to accelerate the development of a Great Lakes “super region” strategy.

4. Convene relevant institutions and leaders to drive an “Outsource to Detroit” campaign. Said Snyder: “We’re the value place to be… it’s not just the cost of labor, it’s the value of quality.”

5. Convene business, labor and educational leaders to develop and document the factual benefits of doing business in a globally competitive Michigan. McClure said this effort needs to start with all of us — that we need to stop talking down Michigan as a place to do business. And here, once again, Snyder continued to refuse to take an anti-union stand. He pointed out that Germany, a country with strong unions, is doing very well in the global economy, and said: “The question is, what can we learn from Germany?”

6. Establish a mentorship initiative engaging past graduates of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Leadership Detroit program.

7. Education: Ask the governor for an assignment. The form of this assignment wasn’t immediately apparent Friday. Again, without mentioning specifics, Snyder called for deep revisions in Michigan’s school systems, saying “we have great people in a failing system” and that the system needs change all the way from prenatal care through college. He reiterated that too many high school students aren’t ready for college or work, and praised community colleges. “I love community colleges,” he said. “My first college experience was at Kellogg Community College” in Snyder’s native Battle Creek.


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