BLOG: A funny thing happened on the way to the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference

It was a rough day Monday for the Action News team as we made our way toward the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference.

Right around West Branch the tire on our satellite truck exploded like a mortar round. Chief photographer Jerry Terrian expertly brought our lumbering vehicle to a stop on the shoulder.

While waiting for a tow truck to come change the tire I took my bicycle (I bring it along to get around Mackinac) into West Branch to get supplies. The chain broke.

Then followed a two hour ordeal by a tow truck driver to jack up the rear of our immensely heavy truck, wait for the right lug wrench to show up, then remove the stubborn lugs and shredded tire.

At this point I'm sure a pessimist would have concluded the trip north to cover the conference on Mackinac was jinxed from the start. An optimist might decide all the bad stuff was past and it was nothing but clear sailing ahead.

Which was I? It got me thinking about the Policy Conference itself.  The first year I covered it was in 2002 and frankly I approached it with a hefty measure of pessimism. Detroit ten years ago was clearly in bad shape and I couldn't see how a bunch of people on an island 350 miles talking about it was going to fix anything.

As each year came I approached the island with the same question: "what did you talk about last year that actually became reality?" The answer was always a vague assurance that "things were getting done". 

I didn't buy it. Until I realized Detroit was getting better. Political scandal and inherent government dysfunction aside, Detroit was improving. I'd been staring at the puzzle pieces so closely I'd failed to stand back and look at the puzzle.

Downtown was growing. Guys like Karmanos, Gilbert and BCBS's Dan Loepp were ignoring the reports of Detroit's demise and actually expanding in the city. Energetic and smart young tech entrepreneurs were actually moving to Detroit. DMC and Wayne State were offering families incentives to move to midtown. Roger Penske had succeeded in getting Belle Isle ready to host premier racing events.

It all sounded familiar. It sounded like the stuff they'd been talking about all those years on Mackinac. It would be naive for me to give all the credit to the policy conference. But maybe there was something to this idea of taking the 'movers and shakers' away from all daily distractions except the back of a horse and see what happens.

So this year I'm approaching Macinac with a little more optimism. I mean the bad stuff, like that blown tire and broken chain, is behind us.

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