This is Pure Michigan

FLINT – Admittedly, I am among the few who has somehow resisted the charms of the Pure Michigan campaign all these years.

Right from the beginning, Tim Allen’s syrupy radio and TV spots about the glories of fall leaves and long walks on the beach left me feeling like a kid overdosing on Halloween candy. I mean, come on, I like Mackinac Island as much as the next guy, but I would hardly describe it as a place where “the sun can’t wait to wake up and adventure waits around every corner.”

Anyone who’s been there knows what you’re most likely to find around every corner is peanut butter fudge and/or horse poop. And as for the sun, I grew up at the same latitude as Mackinac Island and I can assure you that it takes its own sweet time getting up and staying up, which is why the U.P. is so damned cold all the time.

Being a lifelong smart aleck, I prefer the Pure Michigan spoofs on YouTube created by John Kerfoot, which are all similar to his take on Lake St. Clair:

“Nestled right under the thumb of southeast Michigan is Lake St. Clair. In the summer it’s the perfect place for a bike ride or a relaxing walk along the water. Have a closer look and you’ll find a mallard taking a cool afternoon swim or a seagull taking a break from the flock to get lost in flight. And only Lake St. Clair can bring you the (bad word) fish flies. They look disgusting and they are. These annoying little (really bad word) are sure to ruin your day. And come night time you’ll encounter swarms so great, you’ll wonder, “Why the hell do I live in Michigan?” Lake St. Clair. Fish flies. That’s Pure Michigan.”

Now that’s a travel ad I could be inspired by. I could easily imagine heading off to see the sky turn dark with fish flies whereas it would never occur to me to visit Mackinac Island because a voice promised me a nondescript “adventure” around every corner. I’m into reality.

But that’s just me. Everyone else I know thinks the Pure Michigan ads are brilliant, and it’s hard to argue with success. Tourism is indeed way up.

So maybe I’m not the right person to listen to when I say that I think the Michigan Economic Development Corp. risks killing the golden goose with its use last week of the Pure Michigan brand in a Wall Street Journal ad extolling the glories of the state’s new right-to-work law.

But I’ll give my two cents worth anyway because that’s what columnists do.

First, isn’t it a bit odd to use your tourism slogan as your business recruitment slogan? Does the AFLAC duck sell hamburgers on the side? Does Ronald McDonald push mutual funds? The MEDC probably thinks that its cherished right-to-work law coupled with the fantasy version of Michigan portrayed by Tim Allen will be enough to convince business owners to flock here like seagulls formerly lost in flight. But I think that’s a stretch.

Second, why mess with success? Pure Michigan is a proven winner precisely because of its broad appeal. Democrats like it. Republicans like it. Union workers like it. Union bashers like it. Politicizing it endangers that broad appeal by sticking a thumb into the eye of those who are still ticked off about the craven way state Republicans pushed right-to-work through the legislature last month without so much as a peep of public opinion. Those folks will see red now every time they see a Pure Michigan spot. And since, like it or not, Democrats and union backers also spend tourism dollars, alienating them seems like a dumb choice.

Short-sightedness. That’s Pure Michigan, too, I guess.

EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.