By Carol Cain
Senior Producer and Host
WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters”
Mackinac Island (WWJ-TV) – If you think getting through the state’s budget with painful cuts on things like education and film/brownfield incentives was difficult, hold onto your seats sports fans as Gov. Rick Snyder says the toughest part of reinventing is still ahead.
Snyder, who has made recasting the troubled state a call to action during his first six months on the job as its 48th governor, talked about the three things he will focus on going forward during taping of the “Michigan Matters: Mackinac” special that airs 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit.
The three things Snyder will target: health and wellness, infrastructure as in roads and Internet, and talent/workforce development.
“Everyone agrees we need to be healthier,” he said. “And we are in favor of better infrastructure such as roads and Internet. And talent and workforce development is the other thing.”
“This is a defining moment in Michigan’s history,” Snyder told me from the porch of the Governor’s Summer Residence on the island where we sat away from the 1,500 congregated at the Grand Hotel which was ground central for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference.
“It’s time to rebuild, reinvent and reenergize our state,” Snyder said. “We have to be positive. This is not about fighting over shrinking pieces of the pie but all of us coming together. All 10 million of us.”
“We are still in the early stages of reinvention,” he said. “There’s lots more to be done. We have only laid the foundation.”
Snyder discussed the need for everyone in the state – east and west – city and suburbs — to row the boat in the same direction.
“Instead of polarizing extremes, we need to find common ground issues we can work on,” he said.
There’s little dispute that Snyder, former CEO and self-described “nerd” who is new to elected politics, is making his presence known.
“This Governor is working faster than a Congressional intern working a buffet line,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, who worked in Washington before taking over the business organization a year ago. “He’s setting a new standard for getting things done.”
Snyder worked with Baruah and Meritor CEO and Conference Chair Chip McClure in setting the tone and topics at the signature conference for business, political and educational leaders.
“Gov. Snyder is making believers out of the early ‘doubting Thomases,’” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a fellow Republican who talked of challenges for the region.
“He gives himself steep challenges, short time tables and then exceeds expectations. There aren’t many people in government or business today who underestimate his ability,” Patterson added.
Besides Patterson, Snyder and Baruah, others in the special include: GM President Mark Reuss, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., UAW President Bob King, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, DPS Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts, Grand Hotel President R.D. “Dan” Musser III, Novi Schools Superintendent Peter Dion.
Education was another hot topic.
Snyder recently coaxed Roberts,72-year-old General Motors executive, out of a comfortable retirement to come to the Motor City on a full time basis and take on the vital Emergency Financial Manager job at Detroit Public Schools.
“I didn’t come in with a plan to save DPS,” said Roberts. “I came as a person who has been involved with turnarounds. The Governor wanted me to drive change in DPS and that I what I will do.”
Bing, who is confronting crisis seemingly everywhere in his beloved city, said he needed to spend more time in Lansing to help build bridges and make the city’s issues known.
Snyder has said since he announced he would run for governor that Michigan cannot be strong without a vital Detroit.
Finally, Snyder was also asked which ranked higher in his book: the gorgeous view from the porch of the governor’s summer residence on Mackinac Island, or the 50-yard line at the Big House where his beloved University of Michigan football team plays?
You can hear the answer by watching “Michigan Matters: Mackinac” 11 a.m. Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit. Paul Pytlowany, Chief Videographer at WWJ-TV CBS Detroit, worked with Cain in putting together the special.
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of Emmy winning “Michigan Matters.” You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at 248-355-7126 or via email.