Michigan CEO Summit to Challenge State’s Competitiveness


Using examples from his own experience as chairman and CEO of Detroit-based Walbridge, John Rakolta Jr. says his address at the second annual Michigan CEO Summit on Oct. 30 in Detroit will prompt the audience to ask why firms like his are doing the majority of their work outside of Michigan.

“We just broke ground about a week ago on a huge tubing mill for Benteler in Shreveport, La.,” Rakolta says. “We’re doing all kinds of manufacturing and auto projects, but unfortunately, the majority are happening outside of the state. Why is that?

“What are (the other states) doing that, perhaps, we aren’t doing?”

Rakolta’s address, “Do we Compete or do we Win? A global CEO’s view,” will set the tone for the summit on Oct. 30 at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit. Other executives speaking at the event, hosted by the Business Leaders for Michigan, include Brig Sorber of Two Men and a Truck/International Inc., Kurt Darrow of La-Z-Boy Inc., and James Hackett of Steelcase Inc.

Daniel Burrus, author of “Flash Foresight” and Former Governor John Engler will also speak at the meeting, which will focus on what needs to be done in order to make Michigan a “Top Ten” state for job, economic, and personal income growth.

To achieve that goal, Rakolta says it’s beyond numbers. “It’s more than just tax rates and the time it takes to get an air quality permit or the cost of an employee,” he says. “The equation for winning is far more esoteric.”

The conference, which is open to the public, runs $125 per person. To obtain more details, visit www.businessleadersformichigan.com.

In other news from the Business Leaders for Michigan, a survey conducted earlier this month showed that the majority of Detroiters surveyed, 31.3 percent, strongly disagreed with the city’s decision to file bankruptcy, and 43.2 percent believe that Detroit is “on the wrong track.” Even so, the survey found that 60 percent of Detroiters believe the city will improve in 2014.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of media coverage devoted to Detroit in recent months, but we hope this is the story that sticks,” Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, said in a statement. “The people of Detroit are resilient, optimistic, and ready for change.”