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Posted on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

$1M national Pure Michigan campaign to showcase business and tourism in Washtenaw County

By Ryan J. Stanton

Washtenaw County will be at the center of a new $1 million national advertising campaign planned to showcase the area's opportunities for business and tourism.

County officials announced the new Pure Michigan campaign at Wednesday's meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. proposed the pilot program called "Sense of Place," which will combine, for the first time, support for tourism and economic development, putting Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County in the national spotlight.

"This is the only area in the state that is being considered for this combination," County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, wrote in a memo to commissioners.


A new ad campaign is expected to showcase Ann Arbor's quality of life and business and tourism opportunities.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ypsilanti Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and SPARK are local partners in the initiative.

The MEDC plans to allocate $500,000 from its Pure Michigan funds, with a matching amount from SPARK and the local CVBs. The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti CVBs each plan to allocate $230,000 and SPARK plans to allocate $70,000.

The county board voted 10-0 Wednesday night with Alicia Ping absent to distribute $150,000 in excess collections from the county's accommodations ordinance administrative fund to the Ann Arbor CVB and $50,000 to the Ypsilanti CVB to help fund the effort.

"The objective is to increase awareness throughout the entire United States rather than depending just on regional marketing," Smith said. "It is an exciting chance to showcase the opportunities in our county for both business and tourism."

The main component will be a national cable TV advertising campaign. Additionally, the plans include a presence on the state's Pure Michigan website with four articles appearing throughout the year, written by the CVBs and featuring various local attractions.

HGTV also is expected to air a “Househunters” episode where a family searches for a house in the area. It's proposed that the episode will air in June, subject to negotiations with HGTV.

Additionally, SPARK plans to create a video highlighting how AnnArbor and Washtenaw County are unique, showcasing the area's thriving business climate, arts and cultural offerings, dining and overall quality of life. Journalists will be invited on press trips to experience Washtenaw County firsthand to see why companies have come to call the Ann Arbor area home.

SPARK plans to offer both national and regional publications information on the opportunities the area has to offer businesses, residents and visitors.

There also will be a $50,000 national digital campaign to direct people to the SPARK website, as well as a national print campaign with a focus on economic development.

Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor CVB, said she'll have more details next week, but she was told the Pure Michigan spring/summer campaign will be launched in March.

The money the county board voted to distribute to the CVBs on Wednesday comes from a 5 percent excise tax the county collects from hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, which is distributed to the CVBs and used to promote tourism and convention business.

The county board took action last year to amend the county's accommodations ordinance to keep track of the actual administrative expenses needed for enforcing collections of the 5 percent tax. The county treasurer now keeps 10 percent of the proceeds for that purpose.

It was determined there was an excessive amount of more than $350,000 in the administrative fund, and so $200,000 of that money is being channeled to the CVBs ahead of schedule.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Thu, Feb 23, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Why does this bother me? It is $1M (coming mostly through MEDC and SPARK being spent on some unproven idea. And, most of that money represents in some form taxpayer money, the kind we asked the poor, middle-class, and seniors to give up and do without this next year and beyond. The kind we need to provide essential services like police, firefighting, and garbage collection not to mention schools. Worse, this unproven idea seems to be the idea of SPARK, an organization that is extremely proficient at convincing the State to part with money in the form of grants, loans and guarantees which basically operates as a subsidy to increase the profits and reduce the risk for venture capitalists and angels. Oh yes, SPARK does a great job of creating businesses but not the kind of businesses that create jobs that pay meaningful wages for middle-class workers. From what I can tell, it is a means of getting taxpayers to subsidize high-risk, entrepreneurial ventures that increase the wealth of venture capitalists and angels. I just don't find the connection between what SPARK does with the companies it serves and increased jobs or work for middle-class workers of Michigan. Most of the companies it works with seem to prove out technologies that are then sold to the highest bidder which may be a foreign country or some out-of-state company. This is a lot of taxpayer money being spent to benefit venture capitalists and outsiders. But, this seems to be the formula in place at SPARK for the past several years and it is no surprise that it is now being expanded upon in the State government. This is precisely what Governor Snyder means when he talks about "business". Do these companies make a profit? Sure they do. Would they make a profit if they weren't subsidized? Probably, but certainly not as much. Do these companies create jobs for Michigan workers who need them? More importantly, do these jobs pay a meaningful wage? Probably not. WAKE UP!


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

I think the Kid Rock video of Born Free and touting the benefits of the UP is also a boon to their tourism as well. I loved that video and could pretty much name the areas he was in. Now, to go get a convertible and ham it up. Thanks Kid Rock for that wonderful video.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 2 p.m.

When Granholm talked about pure Michigan and the cool cities everything was marked with ridicule from the republicans. Now, not so much.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Loved the video. Guess Trinity made it to the video as well. Says a lot doesn't it?


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I still make fun of the &quot;cool cities&quot; thing. As for &quot;Pure Michigan&quot; I am not doubting its effectiveness, but it still constantly gets made fun of and parodied. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> OR <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;v=VZNG802</a> zfZ4&amp;feature=endscreen I know a group of people who after every mishap simply say &quot;pure michigan&quot;

Leah Gunn

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

@LetsGetReal: at no time did I imply that the CVB was the impetus behind the Jan. 1 NHL game. What I said was this is an EXAMPLE of tourism, and will generate millions of dollars of business for Washtenaw County. Hotels are preparing package deals for out of town visitors (preseumably from Toronto) and these will be available through the CVB web site. The accommodation tax helps market the hotels and other opportunities for tourism in the county. One of the biggest draws are Michigan home football games, which the CVBs have nothing to do with, but they MARKET the opportunites for the hotels. Going national with this Pure Michigan campaign will bring excellent coverage to the Ann Arbor area for both tourism and business opportunities.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 6:58 a.m.

Potholes... Flat tires... That's Pure (Washtenaw County) Michigan.

Lets Get Real

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

Let's Get Real about the Accommodation Tax Ordinance. Formerly 2%, in 2009, in the middle of the recession, with already low occupancy, the county commissioners voted to raise the amount by 150%. People were out of work, gas prices were hight, and few people were coming to AA, &amp; if they were coming, most were not staying overnight. CVB revenues went down, they cried to the commisssioners,; the rate went from 2% to 5% of the nightly rate of the room rate collected by the lodging proprietor. Unbelievable, everyone else is tightening their belts to stay afloat and the CVB gets a 150% raise. Taxation without representation? The people who are charged the tax are, for the most part, not from here, therefore they do not have anyone who represents their sentiments. Pretend for a moment, you are one of those people, you would pay 11% tax on the price of the room. So someone comes for a football game and pays $300 for a 2 night stay - they are required to give the state and the county $33. The lodging proprietor is required to collect the $33. Money spent on taxes will then NOT go to support a local small business: a restaurant meal, a UM clothing item, another night's local lodging establishment, etc. Result - between the high gas prices and the raise in tax, the year following the tax increase actually experienced a decline in occupancy. The tax was a deterent. So where does the increase in tax go? They insisting they would be pouring the added funds into promoting tourism, but they hired more people to do the same amount of work and they redecorated their offices. You are right Tom. What a colossal waste of tax dollars. Leah, are you implying that the tax dollars collected in Washtenaw County went to woo the NHL to bring that game to Washtenaw County? Hardly. Local CVB's did not accomplish this coup. The NHL wants to break an attendance record and the UM wants the revenue for facility rental and concession sales. Mary Kerr? Not there.

Conan Smith

Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

Actually, the more apples-to-apples analysis looks at occupancy rates and trends in our peer communities before and after the implementation of the tax. I haven't looked since I left the AOC in 2010 but at that point Washtenaw was faring far better than others. The CVB's presented a strong business case for the investments which was backed by the area hoteliers. They check progress against it quarterly. So far it appears to be providing a decent return. Objectives Presentation


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

hmmm... I wonder how much they have set aside to pay the bums to stay out of the shots?


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

This is absolutely marvelous. Michigan is loaded with tons of fun for everyone. Let's get the word out to one and all to come and visit. The dollars from tourists can only be good for everyone.

Jimmy McNulty

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 10:11 p.m.

I like the Pure Michigan ad campaign and also believe, as others have mentioned above, that it is effective. The spoof ads are pretty good as well. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

Loved it. The other school that got the shaft. I haven't stopped laughing yet.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

Pete Hoekstra = Pure Michigan!

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Pete Hoekstra is a total Embarrassment.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

....that was random.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

Quite frankly, I think the &quot;Pure Michigan&quot; campign is actually one of the more effective initiatives executed by State government. I see the advertisements when I travel to other cities and it really makes Michigan look like a place worth visiting. I'll rip on government when it is inefficient, but in this case, I'm okay with this.


Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

I agree and I am glad to see this come back with this ad campaign. Why? Because Michigan did not have the funds to do this for 2 years. Glad to see it and glad to hear Washtenaw county is going to boon from it. So, where do I need to be to see this taped?


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

And within context of Republican primary Michigan is being cast as the blue-collar state (who relate to Santorum's message). Just what we need for economic development. Let's include the journalists who keep making this point in the public relations package :)


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

I find myself turning up the radio or TV whenever I see/hear a new on come on. I like them a lot and think they do a great job of promoting the good side of Michigan. As Michigan residents we have to realize that a large part of the country sees Michigan and immediately thinks of Detroit (or what they've read about it). Breaking that stereotype will go a long way in the progress of our state.

Leah Gunn

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

This money is collected from people who stay in hotels in Washtenaw County, so it is not &quot;taxpayers' money&quot; but could better be described as &quot;visitors' money&quot;. This accommodations tax has been in force for many years, and by law it belongs to the CVBs for the promotion of tourism. It is expected, for instance, that the NHL game between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs here in Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, 2013, will generate about $14 million for local businesses. In turn they pay property taxes and personal property taxes to the local jurisdictions. Helping these local enterprises to maintain and expand their business makes sense.

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Clearly someone has been in politics for far too long. Visitors who pay an accommodation tax are not taxpayers? That's political logic if ever I've heard it. And the article says that the bulk of the money is from SPARK and the MEDC, not the CVB. Where do SPARK and MEDC get their money? From taxpayers--especially SPARK, who you and your fellow commissioners just created a special millage for, while at the same time cutting services the county is obligated to provide--like animal control.

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Put that $1 million into our schools, roads, parks, police and fire, and human services instead. Do that, and believe me, the word will get around that this is a great place to visit and live. What a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

Tom Whitaker

Fri, Feb 17, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

Commenters above are quick to criticize the salaries of UM administrators and state legislators, but give a total pass to the MEDC and SPARK who pay their staffs huge salaries with absolutely no accountability. $1 million applied to services would provide $1 million in...wait for! $1 million applied to TV ads would be gone forever. Let the private sector use their $1.8 billion in tax breaks to pay for their own advertising. I'd rather have roads, parks, police, fire, water, sewage treatment, etc., etc.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

I hope you realize that 1 million would do almost nothing applied to all those areas. Or even half. A million is not what it used to be.

Joe Kidd

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

I agree with hail2 MEDC focuses on economic development not public services development. Spending on public services is based on the local and state economy. Besides putting one million into schools, roads, parks police fir and human services once divided up is not even going to be noticeable and would be consumed in probably less than a year.

Tom Whitaker

Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

$250 million spent because of an ad campaign? Really? That's a scientific number derived from real data? How did they come up with that one? How did they attribute to being solely from an ad campaign? I don't believe this any more than I believed the mad-up job creation numbers coming from MEDC and SPARK. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> And &quot;Dumping?&quot; You call spending money collected from taxpayers on services for taxpayers &quot;dumping?&quot; I guess that's a symptom of how ingrained the concept of government taking on the role of business development has become. If one looks closely at the names of and relationships between individual politicians, individuals in quasi-governmental ED non-profits, and individuals running the government ED agencies, one can see this racket for what it really is--a money pit of political cronyism.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

What a silly statement. This pure Michigan campaign is producing $2.84-$5.34 on every single dollar of tax money spent on it. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> So spending $1 million dollars of our tax money should net the area a minimum of $2,840,000 in tax revenue based on the studies done. Not to mention all of the local businesses that benefit from more tourism to the area. In this end this will benefit our schools, roads, parks, police and fire, and human services far more than just dumping the $1 million into them would.