By Luke Bonner, VP of Business Development, Ann Arbor SPARK
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and for over 30 years the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Annual Policy Conference has contributed to that fine history. This year’s Mackinac Policy Conference kicked off in grand fashion with the Detroit Regional Chamber, Ann Arbor Spark, Oakland County, Wayne County, and the MEDC announcing a new initiative led by DTE and Meritor to raise 2 million dollars annually. These funds from the private sector will contribute to a new regional economic development program, designed to spur growth in the southeast region of Michigan.
After announcing the new initiative, Governor Snyder kicked off the conference with great enthusiasm. He touted MiTalent.org, an online job portal that connects employers and talent, and Pure Michigan Business Connect as leading initiatives for the state. The event then segued into a great panel on entrepreneurship moderated by Josh Linkner, a New York Times best-selling author of “Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity.” Entrepreneurship is at an incredible level today and support for that culture has never been more energized. According to Josh Linkner, this region offers a high concentration of engineering talent per capita, which is a great advantage to start-ups and established businesses alike.
Other people on the panel included Chris Rizik from Renassaince Ventures, who is working with the region’s existing companies to understand their needs and help them grow. Chris acknowledged Shifting Code, which is administered by SPARK in partnership with the MEDC, as one of the programs filling a need for companies. One of the first retraining programs of it’s kind, Shifting Code is designed to help fill the critical demand for IT talent in the region.
Also participating in the panel was Angel Gambino, a Michigan native who originally left Michigan to pursue successful business ventures around the world. She has since returned to Michigan to build a real estate company in Detroit. Angel is excited by the changes happening in the Detroit region, and she encourages the community to continue spreading the good news about the region to the world.