Engage more voices at Mackinac

Lena Epstein Koretzky  opt

Think about it. If you limit your political voice to 140 characters on Twitter or your networking to events with like people within your age group, you’ll miss the boat shuttling some very big connections.

I recently returned from my first time attending the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference — mingled with 1,500 people, representing all races, religions and political persuasions. Many attendees fell within the entrepreneurial class on which we’re banking Michigan’s success.

Gov. Rick Snyder told the group: “We’re the comeback state in the country and we need to be telling people across the country and the world that.”

The comeback has grown to involve young, energetic visionaries from all over Michigan, particularly Detroit. This is ground zero when it comes to reinventing our economy. William Clay Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, told conference attendees that he sees Michigan as the Silicon Valley for the world’s mobility revolution.

I say get moving.

Some are of the opinion that if the annual policy conference could be moved to Detroit, such a move would make it more economically feasible for young entrepreneurs and business folks to attend.

However, if the conference stays on Mackinac, young people must figure out a way to participate. I took several young colleagues with me to Mackinac Island, requiring only two tanks of gas and a ferry ride to get there.

They slept on the floor. They hung out at the Pink Pony and Horns Gaslight Bar. They even invested money to golf with the conference’s movers and shakers, after they were denied access to the porch of the Grand Hotel.

People in their twenties and thirties are kick-starting careers and paying off student loans. They ought to get a discount for conference attendance, much as golf clubs and private clubs offer breaks to young members. Moreover, these offerings must be publicized both before and during the event.

It’s a known fact that young leaders bring innovation and fresh ideas to the table. When connected with those who are already well versed and connected in the region, emerging leaders possess power to effect measurable change.

Forty-five years ago, my grandfather, Stanley J. Winkelman, helped start New Detroit, Inc., for that same reason: to help bring about a racial dialogue and celebrate the urban experience. He taught me to speak up, to show up and keep moving forward.

The future of this region lies in cross-over appeal, people who work well with others — Republicans and Democrats of all races and backgrounds. If we want the “mobility revolution” to happen, it is because we participate, whether that is moving to a loft in Midtown, attending a free evening with the Model D Speaker Series, or enjoying a beer session at Zoos.

Ultimately we want the same thing, whether 25 or 75. We can network every day of the week and gain traction meeting others with creative ideas, with experience and resources to help us reach our dreams. Creativity starts by getting connected.

Alternately young people could stage an upscale tent city around Fort Mackinac and work to move networking beyond the conference at the 2013 Policy Conference. Fortunately, we have a whole year to plan ideas for affordable inclusion.

So if you don’t have wheels, find a friend who does. This is an exciting time to be a Detroiter.

Island politics rock on. Let’s bring more to the party.

Lena Epstein Koretzky, is a political observer and an advocate for young political leadership.


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