COLUMBUS – Move over, “Pure Michigan.” Ohio wants to prove it’s the cool kid on the Midwestern block.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that he wants to spend $50 million on a marketing campaign to convince East Coast and West Coast residents to live, work and spend their money in Ohio.
“We want to position Ohio as the place to be,” DeWine said during a news conference unveiling his next state budget proposal. “Ohio is a welcoming place. I don’t care who you are, we want you to come to Ohio. It’s a progressive state.”
Well, not exactly. Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature hasn’t passed many progressive policies in years. Efforts like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour or banning discrimination in employment and housing for LGBTQ Ohioans have failed to gain traction.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted swooped in: “We’ve got small towns with conservative values. We’ve got some cities with progressive values and all across the scope, Ohio is a place where no matter what you want, we’ve got it.”
Democrats were immediately critical of the campaign.
“Instead of spending $50M for a PR campaign, Republicans could stop passing extremist legislation that keeps women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and working families from realizing their American dream in Ohio,” tweeted House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron. “It would be a lot cheaper. And much more kind.”
DeWine wants to spend $50 million over two years to market Ohio better to new residents or those who grew up here and might want to return. The money is part of $1 billion in one-time spending in his two-year state budget proposal.
That could mean keeping the current slogan: “Ohio: Find it Here,” which is now more than five years old. TourismOhio spent nearly $11.9 million during the last fiscal year, which ended in June.
The new campaign would be under the “Find it Here” umbrella, a DeWine spokesman said.
Ohio has been plagued by sluggish population growth compared to other states. Still, Ohio was the No. 4 growth state in the nation in 2020, according to U-Haul.
DeWine sees an opportunity to convince those around the nation that Ohio is a good place to raise a family, attend college or build a career. As more people work remotely, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, they could relocate to the Midwest, where taxes and real estate are lower, he said.
“We have a great story to tell and we intend to tell it.”