‘Are you kidding me?’: Pure Michigan funding vetoed

Ottawa County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The back-and-forth between Michigan lawmakers about the state budget has left funding for the Pure Michigan program in limbo.

The program was launched in 2006 and has since become a brand for the entire state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed all funding for the program this week after lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on how much to give it. The funding cut totaled nearly $30 million, which is below what Whitmer suggested.

“‘Oh my God. Are you kidding me?’ That was truly my first thought because it’s such a strong brand and because it’s economic development,” Sally Laukitis with the Holland Visitor’s Bureau described her reaction.

The marketing campaign showcases some of the best of the Mitten and generates millions of tourism dollars for lakeshore cities like Holland. Laukitis said it’s one of the reasons the city saw more than 2 million visitors last year. Shop owners say they can see the impact directly in their stores.

“There’s more foot traffic especially in the summer months,” Fris Gifts and More store manager Andrew Fris said.

Fris said the store, which has been in his family for 120 years, started selling Pure Michigan souvenirs because of demand.

“A lot of people who are visiting are traveling the state as well, so the Michigan (themed) stuff is nice,” he said.

People in Holland are now wondering how the cut will affect local businesses.

“I think the entire state would take a hit from an economic development standpoint, from a return on investment, from the number of people who are coming here shopping in our shops, enjoying our hotels and attractions. I think it will have a long-term effect,” Laukitis said.

The cuts to program are not final. Laukitis said she hopes lawmakers realize what’s at stake.

“To have the support and the branding of Pure Michigan to market all of (the tourist attractions) has been a wonderful asset to us,” she said, “and so I truly, truly, truly hope it stays.”

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