Professionals urge investment in Michigan’s future


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A Thursday panel at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference focused on Michigan’s future and across-the-board preparation.

The discussion moderated by 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin looked at everything from infrastructure to education and talent development to energy and more. The four business leaders and professionals on the panel agreed that being prepared is a multifaceted challenge.

Consumers Energy President & CEO Patti Poppe advised against reinventing the wheel.

“There is a commitment to build from where we are. (We must) build on the momentum and not reset just because we’ve had an election. There’s too much progress that’s been made,” she said.

Tonya Allen, CEO of The Skillman Foundation, which backs programs to help Detroit youth, said an education study should be implemented, but it will take everybody’s help.

“We are not going to move forward unless there is deep buy in across our entire state,” she said. “There has to be deep buy in from the business community. There has to be deep buy in  from parents. There needs to be deep buy in from our educators.”

Suzanne Shank, an expert on infrastructure, said that now is the time to make a real commitment that to fixing what’s broken.

“Let’s think about it in terms of our competitiveness. We are on the forefront of the autonomous vehicles, but we don’t have roads that you can put those vehicles on or the broadband across the state to support them,” she pointed out.

Birgit Klohs, the president and CEO of West Michigan economic development Agency The Right Place, Inc., talked about attracting jobs by having good talent — and that means more than just a college education.

“So when your son or daughter comes home and says, ‘I don’t want to go to college because I want to earn with my hands,’ be as proud of that as if they were to say, ‘I’m going to X university.’ And that today is missing,” Klohs said.

She was echoing the call for more skilled trade training that was often heard on the island during the policy conference, which wraps up on Friday.

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