Since its debut in 2006, the Pure Michigan advertising and marketing campaign has entertained and enticed viewers with the state’s scenic vistas enhanced by the resonance of actor Tim Allen’s voiceover narration and orchestral accompaniment taken from a Hollywood soundtrack.
Those viewers accustomed to the miniature travelogues were flummoxed when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer line-item vetoed the Pure Michigan campaign during the budget impasse with Republican legislators last month. In one stroke, Whitmer erased $37.5 million of Pure Michigan funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
While some groups, notably the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, celebrated the veto as a victory for taxpayers who funded Pure Michigan to the tune of $36 million during the 2019 fiscal year, others lamented Whitmer’s action as detrimental to state tourism. Those in support of Pure Michigan included Republicans who countered Whitmer’s initial proposed $5 million cut to the program last spring with their own $1 million increase.
Thus far, none of the supplemental legislation introduced to restore Whitmer’s spending cuts has included restoring Pure Michigan funding.
According to a report commissioned by MEDC: “The ads excel at clearly communicating that Michigan is welcoming, appealing, scenic, relaxing, fun, and has a variety of attractions and activities.” The report concludes the 2018 advertising campaign “generated 3.1% incremental travel, equating to about 1.6 million ad-influenced Michigan trips” and ”about 535,000 influenced repeat trips to Michigan in 2018.”
The estimated 2.1 million trips to Michigan that were claimed by the MEDC report as influenced by Pure Michigan advertising “resullted in about $2.5 billion in visitor spending and $153 million in state tax revenue. The 2018 advertising ultimately returned $10.79 in state tax revenue for each $1 invested in the advertising.”
Michigan Taxpayer Alliance Chairman Leon Drolet, however, disputes the MEDC’s conclusions. Drolet equates the Pure Michigan campaign with other regional efforts to promote business growth in the state, including Automation Alley and the Detroit Regional Partnership as well as similar efforts in Macomb Township, where he resides.
“All politicians like to look like they’re creating jobs,” Drolet said. “What’s lacking is any evidence these pseudo-government agencies paid for with tax dollars actually live up to their hype.”
Drolet acknowledged that Michigan provides many great tourism opportunities. “We’re blessed to live in Michigan,” he said. “And it’s a terrific place for out-of-state tourists to visit.”
He added: “But it’s not up to taxpayers to pay for advertising that benefits one industry in particular. That should be left up to tourism bureaus, chambers of commerce and individual businesses in the tourist industry. They shouldn’t offload their business expenses on the taxpayers,” Drolet said.