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East-West Collaboration

May 23 2013 | no comments

The Mackinac Policy Conference taking place May 29th through the 31st has largely been a Detroit affair.

That has changed.

A group from the west side of the state will be attending the conference in hopes of reaching out to help Detroit and Michigan.

Jeff Vaughn traveled to Grand Rapids to meet with the leaders of the West Michigan Policy Forum.

“We need Detroit if Michigan is going to be successful”, says Jared Rodriguez, President of the West Michigan Policy Forum.

Things are good in Grand Rapids. The 2012 Census shows the metro area has topped one million residents for the first time and the majority of its growth is coming from young people.

Kent County is leading the state in natural population growth.

Unemployment is only 8.8 percent.

The economy is good, and the people feel like they are a part of a team. “Community is power”, says Andre, a long-time Grand Rapids resident.

Things are so good in Grand Rapids they want all of Michigan to join the party, including Detroit.

“They can learn a lot from Grand Rapids”, says Richard, a Grand Valley State student from East Michigan.

The West Michigan Policy Forum has three goals:

-Support urban cores

-Improve transportation and its infrastructure

-Draw talent

Helping reach those goals is a group of business leaders from west Michigan.

42 North CEO Mike Jandernoa will be making the trip to Mackinac with a message of Michigan unity.

“There’s an energy and enthusiasm that wasn’t there before and outside of Michigan is starting realize that.”

But for business to flow to Michigan, money needs to follow.

Jim Dunlap is a Grand Rapids Huntington Bank exec dedicated to supporting Michigan growth.

He says Huntington has delivered $2 billion worth of loans and that has attracted business to the state.

“They could be somewhere else. They pick Detroit”.

But Dunlap says the state needs more than money, it needs a “positive attitude”. When asked about over rivalries, Dunlaps says, “I don’t believe it’s fashionable, it’s absolutely not appropriate”.

But there are people that still cling to the past.

“We’re better than they are because Detroit is a hole in the wall”, says Andre.

“If Detroit can’t help themselves, I don’t know if other people are going to help them”, says Richard.

West Michigan leaders insist Detroit will come back. “Our leadership will continue because failure is not an option to Michigan”, says Jared Rodriguez.

Click here for more on The West Michigan Police Conference.

Click here for more on the Mackinac Policy Conference.


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