Mackinac Island (CBS 62) – With 1,700 movers and shakers from politics, business and education gathered at the Detroit Regional Chambers 33rd annual policy conference there was much attention paid to serious issues like education, politics and the economy –but there were some lighter moments too.
CBS 62 Chief Videographer Paul Pytlowany and I made the trek up Interstate I-75 to capture the sights and sounds and gain some riveting one-on-one interviews with the famous, the notorious and others vying for attention at the annual confab.
The end result is a fast paced “Michigan Matters” special that provides a smorgasboard of things heard and seen on the island. Among some of the highlights: Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and national education/immigration reform advocate, talked about those issues as a keynote speaker at the conference. He took time to discuss his presidential aspirations and eldest son, Jeb. P. Bush, with us. “2016 is a long way off.
Right now, I’m busy with my education work,” Bush said. When asked about Jeb P.’s future, Gov. Bush said, “He’s running for Land Commissioner in Texas. I’m so proud of him. Now I understand what my dad (former President George H.W. Bush) felt when he watched me and my brother (former President George W. Bush) during our various political campaigns. There’s nothing quite like it. I just feel so much pride.”
Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, was on the island with other DADA officials at their annual shindig at Horn’s Bar. “It’s ironic to be talking about the state of the auto industry from an island that doesn’t allow them!” Alberts said. “As an industry, we are doing so much better than a few years ago. Things are looking up. We’re also gearing up for the North American International Auto Show which promises more surprises in 2014!”
Mark Hackel, Macomb county executive, discussed the $231,00 grant they got from MEDC to promote Michigan as hub for more defense industry work. “Macomb County companies receive nearly two-thirds of all of Michigan’s defense work,” said Hackel. “It makes sense for us to use our assets to attract new investment to the state”
Hackel also took time to visit Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, the newest edition at the Grand Hotel, and took advice from Dan Musser, owner of the storied hotel on which of the 24 Hudsonville Ice Cream flavors sold there to try. Musser’s advice: “Caramel Sea Salt” which he said was his favorite. Hackel dived in on a bowl of Caramel Sea Salt. “This is so good! I’m having trouble concentrating on this interview. It’s like potato chips. You can’t eat just one. This is incredible ice cream!” the county executive said in a living testimonial to the frozen delight .
Judge Greg Mathis, host of the Judge Mathis show seen on CW50, was also among attendees. The native Detroiter , a retired Michigan 36th District Court Judge, splits his time between Chicago, LA and Detroit, and is very involved in the Motor City. He supports the Mathis Community Center and is also chair of Benny Napoleon’s campaign to become mayor of Detroit. “I wanted to support a candidate who could address the most pressing problem our city has — violent crime. Benny Napoleon has been more successful in reducing crime than any police chief in over a quarter century. Much of my success has to do with Detroit voters electing me in 1995. Detroit has never been too busy for me and I will never be too busy for Detroit!”
Tom Canedo, vice president and general manager of CBS 62/CW 50, among first timers at the conference, took advice offered during interviews with Gov. Rick Snyder, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting about what they like to do while on the island. Biking was at the top of their list. “This island is incredible,” Canedo said. “Traveling by bike really gives you a chance to experience the beauty of the island. I’m looking forward to coming back here with my family.”
Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, a nation advocate for education reform, was born in Ann Arbor and grew up in Toledo, Ohio. She talked about reform as a keynote speaker and later discussed her love affair with Mackinac Island. “I brought my two daughters with me. We took time to walk around the island. They kept telling me ‘look at all the t-shirt stores and fudge shops and bikes.’ I laughed as that is exactly what I said as a child when I visited with my family. It hasn’t change a bit. It’s a beautiful island.”
Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of Detroit Regional Chamber. “In my three years here, I think this was our most impactful conference. The line-up of speakers aligned exceptionally well with a tightly focused set of pillars. It was wonderful to have such leaders speaking to common sense centric solutions; Jeb Bush, a republican spoke about immigration as you might think a democrat would. Michelle Rhee, a pro-union democrat spoke about education reform in a way a republican might. In the end, the message we wanted to send is that no political party has a monopoly on good ideas.”
See more pictures from the conference here.
Watch ” Michigan Matters” 11:30 am Sunday on CBS 62
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of the Emmy winning “Michigan Matters” that airs 11:30 a.m. on CBS 62. You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at email@example.com.