MACKINAC ISLAND (CBS Detroit) The annual Mackinac Policy Conference kicked off Wednesday afternoon with speakers including Gov. Rick Snyder and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sounding off on Michigan’s future while more than 1,500 of the region’s movers and shakers looked on.
Snyder gave the welcoming address where he discussed the pillars Michigan needs for future success, including education, culture, a global view, and a focus on economic reinvention. Bush described Snyder as “refreshing” for his civility and ability to get things done.
Bush discussed Detroit, calling it a “tale of two cities,” brought to its knees by years of misspending and is now being rebuilt by visionaries. “We all need to learn a little bit from the message of Detroit,” he said. Bush added he’s read emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s report on the city of Detroit, saying many must wonder why anyone would want to start a business here — despite the fact private business is booming.
“City Hall can’t bring back Detroit alone,” Bush said.
Snyder said his biggest challenge is fixing the state’s culture.
“In Michigan we had a broken culture. We had been so successful — we set the role model for success in the last century. But we were so successful we rode that baby right in the ground,” the governor said. “And as part of it, we became too negative, we started looking in the rear-view mirror looking for the good old days, and we became too divisive.”
Snyder said “Made in Michigan,” has to be a touchstone for the future, with an eye on the increasing things the state exports, including manufacturing and agricultural, in addition to exporting successful business models.
The governor touched on his own history, saying when he graduated from school in 1982, there were no jobs. “We were pretty dumb, let’s not do that again,” an uncharacteristically passionate Snyder said, adding it’s time to stop looking in the rearview mirror and start looking at the future.
He also discussed the need to focus on education and reinvent the state to “bring a new era of innovation.”
“We have to have a strong educational system,” Snyder said, laying out a vision for education that starts before birth, with prenatal care, and goes through 12th grade. “Shouldn’t we make it a seamless system?” Snyder asked.
On education, Bush said “We can’t give every child an equal start in life … But we can give them an equal shot.” He outlined a program to make sure all children can read before fourth grade. “We must raise expectations for all children,” he said, adding low expectations of student achievement is the “greatest mistake we make in public education.”
“Florida, especially during Governor Bush’s tenure, was one of the states that got it right — made government work, made government work for the people,” said Chamber President and Sandy Baruah. “And those are certainly things that our governor is working on as well.”