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A Better Partnership


May 2015
May 28, 2015

Mackinac Policy Conference: Work Hard. Work Together. Consistent Themes at Mackinac

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today:  So far, this is the best Mackinac Policy Conference I’ve ever attended.  There’s a coherent theme – Detroit has turned the corner.  It’s loaded with opportunity but it needs leadership, cooperation and hard work at all levels.  In fact, hard work and working together is a message in every presentation.

To me it seems like a message aimed primarily at the politicians.  No more political in-fighting and stonewalling.  Political foes have to get along and work together for the common good.

Keynote speaker Doris Kerns Goodwin recalled Detroit’s role as “The Arsenal of Democracy” when competitors General Motors, Ford and Chrysler worked together for a much bigger cause building tanks, trucks and machine guns for World War II.  She reminded the audience that these companies were fierce competitors but put the competition aside to work together and suggested that Detroit – and Michigan – have to do the same thing now.  (She also reminded the audience that 40 percent of the workforce at Willow Run during the war was women . . . and productivity consistently went up. A not so subtle message for the men in the audience.) 

The architects of the Detroit bankruptcy, Kevyn Orr and Judges Rhodes and Rosen, echoed a similar sentiment.  The two agreed that while the nuts and bolts of the bankruptcy have been positively addressed it will take even more cooperation at all levels to make sure that it never happens again.

I was particularly  impressed by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker’s enthusiasm for the Detroit story.  He said that the narrative about the city is changing and that everyone in America is pulling for Detroit’s success.  He suggested that “there’s no place in America to be more hopeful about than Detroit.” I was personally delighted to hear his announcement that for the first time since Henry Ford II moved the Ford Foundation to New York in 1948, the organization will hold its Trustees meeting in Detroit next month.

Work hard.  Work together.  Cooperate with your competitors.   Get something done.  That message is loud and clear – and consistent.  It’s aimed at everybody in the audience but somehow it feels to me like the politicians are the real focus.  Let’s hope they’re listening!

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