By Jeff Cranson | The Grand Rapids Press
The Grand Rapids area's top economic development official said today she's thrilled that state officials want to solidify “Pure Michigan” as the state's primary campaign to grow and attract businesses.
“Pure Michigan is the number one state campaign in the country. It just hits all the right notes,” said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place.
Michael Finney, who was formally approved Tuesday as president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said he wants to combine the state’s marketing programs under “Pure Michigan.” That would include folding in the “Upper Hand” campaign the MEDC has used to attract businesses for several years.
Klohs shares Finney's view that “Pure Michigan” is a much more effective campaign and hopes he's successful in convincing the Legislature to fund an expansion to go beyond tourism promotion and add a business-attraction component.
“Rather than have multiple campaigns, it makes sense to have one. Otherwise you're splitting your resources, splitting your message,” Klohs said.
The award-winning "Pure Michigan campaign" -- Klohs says it's the best in the country -- features gorgeous Michigan scenery and the narration of native son Tim Allen. The program hung in the balance after the fall campaign was cut for lack of funds.
After a great deal of wrangling, legislators and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm agreed in December to add $10 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund to pay for the "Pure Michigan" campaign. The money is in addition to the $5.4 million allotted for the tourism campaign in the fiscal year 2011 budget. The money is targeted to pay for winter and spring ad campaigns.
Two years ago, "Pure Michigan" received more than $30 million in funding. Granholm said in October she wanted $25 million more for "Pure Michigan" in 2011.
The governor of Virginia, where lawmakers closed a $4.2 billion funding gap, decided to aggressively fund his state's economic development efforts, adding $54 million in December. That was in addition to a $57 million package approved earlier in the year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the jobs push aided some 215 deals in 2010, including $22.9 million in incentives for 20 major projects, up from $15 million spent on 13 big deals in 2009.
Virginia's deficit was more than twice what Michigan lawmakers are facing as they begin their new term, leaving economic development officials hopeful the Legislature will find a way to increase funding for Pure Michigan.
Klohs said Pure Michigan is recognized around the world and shapes perceptions of the state. "I have people overseas say they saw the ads on CNN International.
"We know how pretty it is here. You have to tell that to others. You can do that best through pictures that show people it is not an old, tired, industrial state," Klohs said.
"The biggest hurdle is to change perceptions about what the state is."