By Epiphany Communications & Coaching*
It’s been a few years since the Midwest Independent Retailers Association (MIRA) was represented at the Annual Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island. The day after Memorial Day MIRA President and CEO, Bill Wild, headed north to spend three days networking.
The 2023 conference focused on “The Power of &” which according to the Detroit Regional Chamber, invited dialogue among speakers and attendees as to why Michigan needs an “and” approach instead of “either or” regarding policy solutions. The “and” approach was designed to create a healthy and productive tension among leaders with different points of view. When it comes to Michigan’s greatest issues and opportunities, “The Power of &” brings otherwise polarized sides closer together to provide the needed stimulus for leaders to bring nuanced thinking to problem solving, as stated on the Chamber website.
While on the Island, Wild attended talks by Ford Motor Company Chairman, Bill Ford, and by Fareed Zakaria, author, analyst, and Columnist with the Washington Post, among others. On the porch of the Grand Hotel, he spoke with dozens of people including legislators, local leaders, CEOs, and operators of non-profits. He sat down with members of the media set up on Media Row inside the dining room of the Grand Hotel to share the MIRA story and current initiatives.
“It was important to be here because a lot of the relationships I’ve formed and nurtured over the years are valuable relationships for MIRA, which will ultimately help us grow,” said Wild sitting on the porch overlooking Lake Huron. “It’s important to reconnect with these relationships and share with them my work with MIRA to advocate for MIRA and to raise our name recognition; the time here has been very helpful.”
Those attending the conference included thought leaders and business leaders who are trying to craft an economic strategy to grow the state, raise the population and create jobs. “Nine out of 10 jobs are created by small businesses, so to have MIRA here is important,” said Wild. “We have small business members across Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois. Small businesses are going to play a big part in crafting the economic strategy for the State. MIRA needs to be at the table.”
Wild is also gauging the changes happening, while keeping MIRA abreast of issues so they are able to change with the times. “The state is changing, the economy is changing, transportation is changing, and the climate is changing and all of it will have an effect on business,” said Wild. “Small businesses will get hit harder because they don’t have large budgets. Small businesses need to be resolute and forward thinking. It is hard sometimes to look far ahead in the future because as a small business owner, you are working the business. You must think about the future and how your business as a retailer, supplier, or vendor factors into the changes.”
Wild spent a lot of time talking about the association itself, but was also focused on helping further the goal of the Midwest Independent Retailers Foundation (MIRF). “Along with the business leaders, philanthropic leaders, as well as non-profits were at the conference,” said Wild. “There is a lot capital that nonprofits are trying to access, and we will do the same.”
The annual event is an opportunity to connect and collaborate with people many might not get a chance to meet otherwise. “We had a great conversation with Jerry Norcia, President and CEO of DTE Energy,” said Wild. “The DTE Foundation has always been a big supporter of MIRF. I also had time to talk to Gary Torgow, chairman of the board at Huntington Bank who was our keynote speaker of this year’s MIRF Scholarship Luncheon; these are examples of the people you are able to connect with at the conference.”
The Leadership Conference also provided Wild an opportunity to connect with elected officials. “The governor was there, and she is accessible,” said Wild. “Key legislators like Senator Joe Bellino Jr., former chairman of MIRA attended, and we talked about the layout of Lansing and legislation important to MIRA. I also spent time with the Speaker of the House Joe Tate. He is going to be a very influential individual in the state. The three-day event was a great opportunity to meet with local, state, and federal officials.”
“There are leaders of all major corporations of Michigan and many of them are members of MIRA such as our suppliers. It is important we connect with them, and I met people in the Detroit area and as we grow our footprints in Southeast Michigan, we rely on those relationships moving forward,” Wild continued.
While on the Island, Detroit Mayor, Mike Duggan, made a big announcement that could have a positive impact on MIRA members with businesses in Detroit. “He announced a new plan to lower taxes for those operating businesses in Detroit while raising the tax on owners of vacant land. It is designed to penalize the investors and speculators, but to give a tax break to those helping in the regeneration of the city,” said Wild. “We have a lot of members who have real estate and who are operating business in the city of Detroit. I always had a great relationship with Mayor Duggan. We will keep an eye on that initiative as we move forward.”
*Writers with Epiphany Communications & Coaching are content creators for Bottom Line.