We are in the business of ideas. 19th Century writer Victor Hugo may have expressed the power of ideas best when he wrote, "An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come."

The Mackinac Center is a nonpartisan research and educational institute devoted to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens. We assist policy-makers, business people, the media, and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues and by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. I like to describe us as the people who help separate special-interest fiction from public policy reality.

Independent and nonpartisan, the Center conducts cutting-edge scholarship that often challenges conventional thinking. We have led pioneering, nationally recognized reforms in areas such as education, labor law, privatization, fiscal policy, and regulatory affairs. The Center does not seek, nor would it accept, government funding and relies solely on voluntary contributions.

When it was founded in 1987, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy had just two employees and a budget of about $80,000. Now in its 15th year, the Center has grown to a staff of about 25 with an annual budget of nearly $3 million. In 15 short years, the Center has become a nationally recognized leader in turning exciting concepts like privatization and school choice into successful public policy. In further evidence of the Mackinac Center’s growing impact and reach, Boston Globe syndicated columnist Jeff Jacoby recently wrote, "The Mackinac Center may just be the best regional think tank in America."

Here is a small sample of the Mackinac Center’s impact:

  • Developed a world’s-first Website called MichiganVotes.org that tracks every legislative action in Michigan. It is free and provides easy access to non-partisan, plain language descriptions of every bill and amendment;

  • Proposed in March 2003 over 200 ways to cut $2 billion from Michigan’s budget;

  • Helped save taxpayers at least $390 million by devising a transportation plan that allowed the state to defer a tax increase;

  • Were the first in the state to call for charter schools, which have since provided options for over 70,000 Michigan children to attend a school of their choice;

  • Conceived a tuition tax credit plan that would allow any tax-paying individual or company to receive a tax credit for paying any student’s tuition. The Center was described by The Wall Street Journal as the nation’s "leading advocate for universal education tax credits;"

  • Helped net Michigan taxpayers $255 million in 1994 through the sale of the state’s Accident Fund;

  • Trained over 300 policy institute executives from over 44 states and 26 foreign countries in sound management of research institutes;

  • Trained over 7,000 Michigan high school debaters to win their competitions using free-market oriented economic arguments.

We live in a complex world and policy-makers face a variety of increasingly difficult policy questions. Most lack the time, background, and resources to become experts on even the most burning issues before them.

For that reason alone – and there are many others – the Mackinac Center’s work is vitally important to the formulation of sound public policy in Michigan. It arms policy-makers with independent research and incisive analysis with which they can craft sensible, evenhanded public policy.

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Note: John Coonradt is vice president for advancement at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.