116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Three red Midwestern states have and are spending a total of $18.7 million in federal pandemic relief funds on ad campaigns touting their state to tourists and potential workers. We can’t help but wonder if this is truly a productive way to address a shortage of workers, or to spend relief dollars.
Nebraska became the latest state, announcing a $10 million campaign to lure workers entitled “The Good Life is Calling,” playing on the state motto. The ad will run in a 500 mile radius around Nebraska, including Chicago, Denver, Kansas City and Minneapolis, as well as in Austin, Texas, and Silicon Valley.
Last fall, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced a $5 million campaign prominently featuring her, along with buffalo and Mount Rushmore.
In September, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds unveiled a $3.7 million campaign including a 30-second ad to be run in the Midwest and national cable networks. It’s part of the “This is Iowa” marketing effort.
In the ad there’s a sailboat on a lake, among several images of people enjoying outdoor recreation. The Des Moines skyline is featured, as are Arnold’s Park and Sioux City’s amphitheater. The ad touts “rolling hills and low bills. “So when are you coming to see us?” the ad asks.
Another question: So when are we going to get creative?
All three ads tout outdoor recreation, feature children and pitch very similar attributes. Iowa’s “low bills” are matched by the Nebraska ad featuring a very nice $225,000 home. Credit too Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts for not appearing in the ad. Noem, an ambitious GOP rising star, couldn’t resist making it look like a campaign appeal.
We show pretty pictures of outdoor destinations, but woefully underfund our state parks system and have taken precious little action to clean up our dirty waters. Children and young adults attend inadequately funded public schools and universities, where tuition is rising. Students who attend our universities may be enticed to stay. We show cities as the GOP Legislature strips them of governing authority.
So instead of making real investments in the attributes we pitch, we simply trade glossy, hollow claims with our neighbors. If people thinking of moving here do simple homework, the gloss quickly will fade.
With the state sitting on a massive budget surplus, it’s time to make those investments and get Iowa ready for its close-up.