Jack Elder and family - click to enlarge

MCPP: Where are you from originally?

Jack Elder: I was born in Detroit and raised in Ferndale and Royal Oak.

MCPP: Tell us about your family.

Elder: My family has a long history in Detroit. My father was a lifelong entrepreneur, the owner of a number of Michigan manufacturing companies. His main business unionized in the 1960s, which caused him to move the main portion of the business to Indiana while still living in Michigan. Today, I own a number of Michigan businesses and I am an adjunct professor of product design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. We also have family operations in other states.

My wife Karen and I have six children: Three boys and three girls. We raised our family in Rochester using a combination of private religious schools, home schooling and occasionally a year or two of public high school. As of this fall, we are empty-nesters and our youngest is away at high school in the Philadelphia area — the same high school that my wife and I graduated from.

MCPP: Why have you stayed in Michigan?

Elder: We love the Great Lakes, especially the northwestern Lower Peninsula. We spend as much time as possible in Leelanau County. My wife is Canadian, so we also spend time at a family cottage on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. I have traveled all over the world and lived in Europe, but can’t imagine residing permanently anywhere but the Great Lakes.

Much of our extended family is still in the Rochester area, as is our manufacturing business, so although our kids have all moved away, we are committed to Michigan.

MCPP: How did you first hear about the Mackinac Center?

Elder: During college, I had been immersed in the idea that only a large and wonderful government could save the world. After graduating from college and entering the workforce, I became interested in free-market alternatives to what I had been taught. My family is full of entrepreneurs and small businesses, so these ideas were close to the surface. I started reading publications by free-market thinkers such as Bastiat, Rothbard, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. My friend Greg Kaza introduced me to Larry Reed and the Mackinac Center. It was very small at the time, and I was very busy raising a family and making a living, but I followed the center, agreeing enthusiastically with the mission.

MCPP: What value do you believe the Mackinac Center provides?

Elder: We live in a state where the large unions and government agencies dominate. I saw the difficulties of small business while growing up, and now experience them first hand. The quality of life provided for everyone by freedom and liberty is unsurpassed by any other system. If we don’t have our freedom and liberty, especially religious freedom, we don’t have anything as humans. The Mackinac Center provides a consistent and refreshing perspective countering the constant and stifling drone of the large government masses.

MCPP: What have been your key components to being successful?

Elder: My family and spiritual beliefs have played a big role. But serving our customers and employees, innovating, and staying out of excessive debt were also very important.