Investment pays off: 'Pure Michigan' brings in tax dollars

The state's 'Pure Michigan' campaign has been the source of both acclaim and angst. Touting Michigan's year-round wonders to prospective visitors from throughout the United States and beyond, the tourism initiative has been praised as creative and effective. But it also has been the target of critics who don't think a cash-strapped state government should be spending money to promote private interests. In the fall of 2009, state lawmakers voted to slash tourism spending by more than 80 percent, to $5.4 million. Much of that spending has since been restored. That's a smart move, judging from statistics announced at this week's Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism 2012 in Grand Rapids. According to a study by tourism research company Longwoods International, the Pure Michigan campaign helped draw 3.2 million visitors to Michigan last year. Their collective $1 billion in spending generated about $70 million in taxes, giving state taxpayers a $4.90 payoff for each $1 they invested in the campaign. That is in addition to the nearly 200,000 jobs that tourism provides in the state and the thousands of businesses that cater to visitors. Pure Michigan and a recovering economy are credited with helping increase tourism spending in 2010 by 21 percent over the previous year, and another 8 percent in 2011, according to researchers at Michigan State University.

Pure Michigan has become a joint public and private venture, with the latest promotional campaign funded by $10 million from the state and an additional $2 million provided by businesses wanting to showcase destinations such as Mackinac Island, the Henry Food in Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Traverse City. Now the state will get a boost from Coca-Cola as well. Officials announced at the Grand Rapids conference that the company will feature images of Michigan scenery with its company logo on billboards, delivery trucks, vending machines and signs throughout the state. Coca-Cola also will sponsor a contest for trips to Mackinac Island, Detroit, Traverse City and the Pure Michigan 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. States increasingly are recognizing the value of marketing themselves regionally and nationwide. Here in Michigan, ads promoting nearby states such as Illinois and Indiana, as well as farther-away destinations such as California and South Carolina, have become increasingly common. Yet none seem to have the succinct appeal of Pure Michigan's invitation to take advantage of our lakes, campgrounds and other attractions. Let's hope that out-of-state visitors lured by Pure Michigan ads find so much to enjoy in the Great Lakes State that they make frequent return trips.