Whitmer to speak at World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos

Whitmer will do Jan. 17 discussion on the return of manufacturing

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be Michigan’s designated guest at the 2023 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. On Jan. 17, she will partake in a panel discussion, “The Return of Manufacturing.” The discussion will focus on one big question: “What will manufacturing look like by 2030 and what role will it play?”

Joining Whitmer in the discussion will be Bandar Alkhorayef, minister of industry and mineral resources of Saudi Arabia; Roland Busch, president and CEO of Siemans AG; Michel Doukeris, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. Also in the discussion will be Francisco Betti, who heads up the World Economic Forum’s “Platform for shaping the future of advanced manufacturing and value chains.”

The theme of the 2023 gathering is “Cooperation in a fragmented world.”

When Michigan Capitol Confidential learned that Michigan’s $6 million public-private partnership with the World Economic Forum, for a “U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing,” entitled it to send one guest to Davos, we reached out to Whitmer’s press office. We never heard back.

Now we learn it is Whitmer, herself, who will attend. And she won’t just be there, she will be on stage talking about the future of manufacturing.

Whitmer is one of only 18 American politicians who will attend.

One hopes Whitmer will influence Davos more than Davos will influence Whitmer.

At the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic, futurist Yuval Noah Hariri gave a speech called “How to Survive the 21st century.” He identified three threats to humanity: Nuclear war, environmental destruction and technological disruption. He warned that the latter would create a “useless class.”

“Technology might also disrupt human society and the very meaning of human life in numerous ways,” Hariri said, “ranging from the creation of a global useless class to the rise of data colonialism and of digital dictatorships. ... This useless class will be separated by an ever-growing gap from the ever more powerful elite.”

Since those fateful words were spoken, Michigan entered into the partnership with the World Economic Forum for a “U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing.” Michigan paid in $3 million, and Oakland County agreed to pay in $1 million a year for three years. That’s $6 million of public money.

World Economic Forum touts tech innovations such as co-working robot as a means to eliminate “dull, dirty and dangerous jobs.” But those jobs provide many a livelihood and have funded many a college education in Michigan.

In Davos, Whitmer will be encouraged to view herself as the “elite,” and to worry not about the “useless.”

But it’s taxpayer money — and not her own initiative — that funded the partnership, as well as her travel and lodgings in Davos. Whitmer would be wise to remember the people who sent her.

The 2023 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting runs from Jan. 16-20.

While Whitmer did not respond a query from Michigan Capitol Confidential, she spoke about the trip to Davos in a news release Wednesday.

“We are taking this opportunity to tell Michigan’s story around the world with leaders and decisionmakers in other countries,” Whitmer said.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.