Last month, Michigan became the nation's newest right-to-work state. The legislation had already caused much controversy with a gathering of roughly 12,500 people at the Capitol. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently purchased a $144,000 full page ad in the Wall Street Journal advocating right-to-work along side the Pure Michigan logo. The ad was titled "What Happens When Michigan Makes History?" and appoints Michigan as "the perfect storm of opportunity, resources and passion." The ad was certainly right about one thing, there is indeed a storm brewing in Michigan.
Some are concerned that the Pure Michigan name, being Michigan's most successful tourism campaign, is being tainted as a result of the MEDC's decision to associate such a divisive issue to a pristine tourism brand.
Tourism executives at Pure Michigan knew their bosses were going to use the logo for some type of marketing advertising promoting right-to-work. Pure Michigan was chosen as the MEDC's marketing brand two years ago. There was therefore no conversation between the executives and their bosses at the MEDC.
"I knew they were going on some ads based on business climate, including right-to-work," George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan said in a phone interview on January 11th. "But in the end, once Pure Michigan was adopted as the MEDC?s marketing brand, then it is their brand."
Zimmerman believed the Wall Street Journal ad to be appropriate.
Pure Michigan, however, is known for promoting the state's natural wonders and cultural opportunities. Many people are therefore arguing that Pure Michigan is not a political campaign and there is a widely accepted disappointment for dragging the Pure Michigan name into the dirty right-to-work debate. Left leaning group Progress Michigan issued a statement criticizing the MEDC?s decision.
"I'm disappointed to see a widely successful tourism campaign wielded as a tool for the right-wing extremists running Lansing," claimed Communications Director Jessica Tramontana. "The only history made yesterday was when Gov. Snyder chose to drag the Pure Michigan name through the political mud."
Gov. Rick Snyder yesterday voiced criticism at the ad.
"I would not have been emphasizing one issue the way it was emphasized in that ad. I would have preferred it had a much broader definition of what makes Michigan a desirable place to locate a business, including elements such as the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax in 2011," he said.
So was the MEDC validated in fusing Pure Michigan to a business ad mentioning right-to-work?
"At minimum, it's just going to kind of dilute a very powerful and kind of focused campaign," said Christie Nordhielm, clinical associate professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. "At worst, it could actually detract from it. And then what you have is a state spending money against itself."
George Zimmerman assured Michiganders that "the words 'Pure Michigan' will continue to make people think of beautiful scenery, not nasty politics and in the end, that is going to win out."