By April Morton

(CBS DETROIT) – The 10th annual Detroit Policy Conference at The Aretha had one focus in mind and that is to move the region and Detroit forward, post pandemic. Small businesses took center stage at the 2021 Detroit Policy Conference.

The event put on by the Detroit Regional Chamber had about 600 registered attendees mainly made up of business leaders in the city. The highlight of the event, helping small businesses thrive after COVID.

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“Small businesses you know really struggle, we need visibility, we need people to see that we’re here, we need the help, we need, people to be interested in small businesses helping us survive,” said Vontetta Robinson co-owner of the Detroit Cocoa Bar.

Robinson was one of about a dozen small business vendors at the conference. She says she’s excited small business is at the forefront of Tuesdays event and hopes they come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.  Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist spoke at the conference and says, that’s the plan.

“Detroit can be a model, Michigan has been a model in the past, it must be a model going forward,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist says with small business grants available and more opportunity for growth in Detroit, business owners can come out of COVID thriving better than before.

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Low vaccination rates among Detroiters were also discussed, Gilchrist says he doesn’t want low rates to send us backwards.

“We want to equip people with what they need to make that choice from an information perspective but also from access perspective,” said Gilchrist.

The next policy conference will be on Mackinac Island September 20-23, 2021 where the future of Michigan’s automotive and mobility will be discussed.

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