MACKINAC ISLAND (WWJ) – A few opinions and observations from the Grand Hotel…
This amazing hotel has come one heck of a long way from dialup.
Somehow, they’ve made an island where a bicycle is the fastest form of transportation a real Internet hot spot. Internet and cell phone coverage used to be dicey here. No longer. I’m getting four bars on Verizon, and according to Speedtest.net, the Grand Hotel’s wireless connection is a blazing 13.82 megabits per second download, and an even more amazing 15.16 megabits on the upload side.
But don’t worry, the taxis are still two horsepower. Literally.
Once again, the reason this event draws dozens of reporters, particularly us entrepreneurial and business types — literally hundreds of leaders in business, nonprofits, education, government and labor — all congregated, some might even say trapped, in a giant, opulent hotel — where they can’t get away any faster than a horse will carry them.
You can get more interviews here in two days than you could get in two months of phone calls. And I’m not even bringing up the alcohol that still flows pretty freely, despite our more health-conscious age, occasionally to delightfully tongue-loosening effect.
And the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Grand Hotel continue to treat us ink-stained (or in most cases these days, electron-stained) wretches embarrassingly well. An incredible lunch of salads and wraps when we arrived at the press center Tuesday, and at 4 p.m. fine wine, beer and sushi magically appeared. (Watch out for that wasabi, though, it’s lethal.) And I’m sure in the morning will appear the usual steel-cut oatmeal and cold smoked salmon.
I had to skip a presentation by one of my journalistic heroes, Fareed Zakaria, to file a bunch of stories, but I heard enough of his speech to know that he probably made a few heads explode.
While ripping southern Europe for making unsustainable promises to its work force, he also said America needs to stop its “absurd argument about big government or small government” in favor of “government that works for people.”
And he advocated growing our way out of high unemployment with a new stimulus plan — a large one, concentrated in infrastructure to get the construction industry moving again, as well as in science and technology.
And he said that taxes simply must rise — we’re spending 23 percent of GDP in government, and taxing only 15 percent, and government spending simply can’t be cut back to 15 percent of GDP in spending without causing huge dislocations. (But he also said that the entire budget-balancing act can’t be achieved with tax hikes either — meaning there has to be spending restraint enough to enrage liberals.)
He also noted that Germany weathered the recession well with government programs that keep workers from being laid off, rather than paying people unemployment benefits like America does — a system he said allows workers’ skills to erode and eats away at their self-esteem.
I got to meet another personal hero, Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo, at a Comcast event (more about their new business phone offering tomorrow). But I was so star-struck and excited I stepped all over my colleague Vicki Thomas’ audio interview. Sorry, Vicki…
Looks like the Detroit Regional Chamber won’t be backing the effort to force Michigan utilities to generate 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. The Chamber announced Tuesday that it is “strongly opposed” to the mandate and urged Michigan residents not to sign petitions to put the question on the fall ballot.