Street Talk: Right to work — and play — must be Pure Michigan


Tying the right-to-work laws with the state’s Pure Michigan tourism campaign seems, well, sort of un-pure.

Will people visit the Wolverine State to see non-union employees working in a factory? That would be a bit of a stretch, even for the most optimistic promoter.

But a full-page ad in last Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that touted the state’s right-to-work law was paired with the Pure Michigan tourism logo.

RTW is sure to draw some legal challenges from labor unions when it takes effect in March, and has been the subject of numerous public demonstrations in and around Lansing. Probably not the types of events tourism officials are hoping to showcase.

The Democrats, naturally, were fighting mad, and put the whole thing in Gov. Rick Snyder’s lap (just a few days before his State of the State Address — an absolute timing godsend!).

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, of Ingham County, called on Snyder to come clean on why the state’s Pure Michigan campaign is being “improperly used to advance his own political agenda.”

“Pure Michigan has always been about uniting our state around what makes us great: our natural resources, our communities and our people. It’s simply offensive that Gov. Snyder would corrupt that message and use it to advance his own political agenda,” said Whitmer.

“I’m calling on the governor today to answer to the people of Michigan who have overwhelmingly expressed their disapproval with what he’s done to the Pure Michigan campaign.”

Whitmer said Snyder should explain how much state money was spent on the full page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal, when the advertisement was approved, who it was approved by, and whether there are plans already in place to “spend further state resources on additional politically motivated advertisements using the Pure Michigan brand.”

The ad, incidentally, was taken out by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (not Snyder).

Richard Cole, a professor in Michigan State University’s advertising and public relations department, agreed that Michigan should stop using the Pure Michigan brand for any purpose outside of promoting the state’s tourism.

“Pure Michigan has been a successful campaign in large part due to its focus on the things we can all agree are positive about Michigan and our communities,” said Cole.

“To tie the Pure Michigan campaign into an issue as politically charged as Right to Work introduces an unprecedented level of politics into a campaign that could jeopardize its support of all Michigan residents.”

Robert Kolt, a 20-year instructor in advertising and PR at MSU and president and CEO of Okemos-based Kolt Communications, agreed.

“Based on my extensive experience and in my professional opinion, linking Pure Michigan's paid advertising to an issue as politically sensitive as Right to Work is actually insulting to many people and simply an error in judgment,” he said.

“This new ad focus is a dramatic change in promotional strategy for Michigan that could seriously backfire, resulting in damage to the positive brand image and value of our state’s business climate, especially our successful tourism industry.”

Whitmer said it is the governor’s responsibility to ensure MEDC is using the state’s resources responsibly.

“The MEDC answers to the people of Michigan and to the governor, so Gov. Snyder cannot shirk his responsibility in this matter,” she said.

“This advertisement isn’t about Pure Michigan, it’s about Snyder’s Michigan, and the hardworking people of our state deserve far better than that.”

Real crime stories

The FBI has called it the “crime of the 21st century.” Physicians call it deplorable. Pet owners call it tragic. Business owners call it bottom-line robbery.

Valued at hundreds of billions of dollars around the world, product counterfeiting threatens global goods ranging from pharmaceuticals to food additives to auto parts.

The Institute for Public Policy and Social Research’s first Public Policy Forum of 2013 brings together researchers from law enforcement and the nation’s first comprehensive research and training program to address product counterfeiting. The institute is based at Michigan State University.

The forum is set for 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16, in the Mackinac Room on the fifth floor of the Anderson House Office Building. The HOB, as the building is known, is directly across from the Michigan Capitol at the corner of North Capitol Avenue and Ottawa Street.

The forum is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by emailing your name and contact information to, or by calling (517) 355-6672.

The topic is one with which business owners often are not familiar, and the forum will provide education as well as enforcement tips regarding the counterfeiting threat to Michigan consumers and economy.

The panel is a lineup of heavy hitters and includes:

Jeremy Wilson, founder and director of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program, associate director for research and an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice at MSU. Prior to joining the university, Wilson was a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corp. His broader interests lie in law enforcement, violence prevention and internal security.

John Spink, associate director and assistant professor for A-CAPPP. Spink has focused on product fraud since the MSU National Food Safety and Toxicology Center and the School of Packaging began research in 2006. He brings 15 years of corporate experience to MSU’s School of Criminal Justice.

Justin Heinonen, assistant professor at A-CAPPP. His broader research interests include problem-solving, policing, spatial crime analysis and crime prevention theory. His most recent research focuses on product counterfeiting, understanding and responding to street robbery and police staffing.

Derryk Burgess, special agent in charge of Detroit's Commercial Fraud Unit inthe U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He conducts security and counter-proliferation investigations involving cross-border trade in such areas as pharmaceuticals, child exploitation and manufactured parts.

One of our own

Business Journal Editor Carole Valade might be the most recognizable female print journalist in West Michigan (and has a 2012 ATHENA Award as evidence), but the gender’s reporting roots trace back to the 1880s, when a woman by the name of Etta Smith Wilson became the city’s first full-time, paid, female reporter.

Her exploits with The Grand Rapids Herald and other Michigan newspapers are the topic of a presentation by historical researcher Cindy Laug on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Press Club of Grand Rapids on the top floor of the Fifth Third Bank Building, 111 Lyon Ave. NW.

The program is set for 4:30-6:30 p.m., with Laug’s comments beginning at 5:15 p.m. The event is open to the public and free of charge.

According to Laug: “As a determined reporter, Smith Wilson wrote about topics of interest to men. This made her an important resource in the newsroom. She reported on police reports, sports, men’s business meetings and state and political news.”

Kind of reminds us of someone else we know.

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