Reporting Vickie Thomas
MACKINAC ISLAND (WWJ) – Hundreds of Michigan business leaders and politicians are headed to Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Kicking off Tuesday afternoon, this year’s event will focus on innovation, collaboration and creating a globally competitive, financially attractive business environment in Michigan.
WWJ City Beat Reporter Vickie Thomas reports transforming Detroit will also be a hot topic — one session titled “Detroit: A Tale of Two Cities.”
Chamber president Sandy Baruah sees it as a struggling city government versus a business boom for some.
“It really is a tale of two cities. We have some financial challenges in the city structure, we all know that, but that’s being addressed,” said Baruah. ”But when you look at what’s happening on the business side here in Detroit … First you start with the auto companies and how great you’re doing and then you look at the IT companies and your great they’re doing.”
Other see it, instead, as a case of the “Haves” versus the “Have-nots.”
“If the strategy is to focus on the Main Street initiatives and core businesses downtown, I think we missed the boat,” said Harvey Hollins, the Governor’s Director of Urban Initiatives. “I think we have to focus on neighborhoods. That’s where people live.”
Former state lawmaker Steve Tabackman agrees.
“Conditions in Detroit’s neighborhoods, which are critical to its future, are really being challenged right now,” said Tabackman, adding that the human face of folks living in those neighborhoods is being forgotten.
“I think too often we focus on the big-ticket projects, and we forget the everyday quality of life. And that’s really what some of this conversation needs to be about,” he said.
But George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, says conditions in the city are no different than in others around the country.
“What’s the big deal about it? I mean … that’s reality. And a big city is gonna have a lot of diversity — not only in races, but in incomes. And it helps us address the areas that don’t have high incomes,” Jackson said.
Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for complete coverage — live from the island — wrapping up with a broadcast special on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Read more about what to expect at this year’s conference at this link.
What critical issues would you like to see Michigan leaders address at the conference? Comment below.