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Mackinac Policy Conference Moves to Fall

The conference marks a return this year, but not a full return to tradition.

For years Michigan’s lawmakers and deal-shapers have discussed the policies and issues facing the state in a gathering against the idyllic backdrop of Mackinaw Island in the spring.

That annual meeting of the minds took an unanticipated turn last year when the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2020 Mackinaw Policy Conference was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The conference marks a return this year, but not a full return to tradition.

The 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference is set for Sept. 20-23 — a scheduling shift to the fall due to ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, according to Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit chamber.

“We made the decision to move it to the fall in anticipation of a recovery from COVID-19,” Carnrike said. “The most important thing to us is going to make sure we’re providing a safe and healthy environment for our participants.”

She noted the event usually brings together 1,600 business leaders, state and federal lawmakers, and a gamut of others interested in molding Michigan’s future.

John Reurink, publisher of the Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., has covered the event since 1997 and has seen it evolve over the decades.

“The conference has actually changed over time,” Reurink said. “When I first started attending, it was much more policy- and Michigan politics-oriented. It still is, but it seems to be more focused on Detroit business people mixing.”

Carnrike said the conference has helped shape solutions.

“It is one of the most successful bipartisan policy conferences in the United States to address statewide and national issues,” she explained.

It also enables the rubbing of elbows, and networking has become a key element of the event.

“I’d say it’s probably more networking now than ideas,” Reurink said. “If I had to guess … it’s about two-thirds Detroit business folks and one-third Lansing legislators, lobbyists, PR pros and journalists.”

To find out more about the conference, go to detroitchamber.com/mpc/.

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