Staff Columnist

This is Iowa, or is that really Iowa?

Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign
Screenshot of YouTube video that is part of the 'This is Iowa' campaign

So we’ve fooled some unsuspecting New Yorkers into rethinking Iowa.

I figured this might be some sort of payback for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio trying to fool Iowans into believing he can get elected president.

But I was wrong. This is marketing. This is Iowa.

“This is Iowa” is the new tagline for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration’s effort to get outsiders to consider moving here and quench our parched thirst for workers. It started with a video.

In that video, New Yorkers are lured into a “Hawkeye Real Estate” storefront staffed by actors. They’re shown beautiful, big apartments and homes at incredibly low prices by New York standards. There’s a nice couple from Long Island, what appears to be a hip, young, same-sex couple and others. They marvel at all the bargain spaciousness.

“Do you have a mud room in your apartment now?” the fake real estate agent asks a couple. Um, no.

Soon, they’re told it’s all a ruse. The properties are in Iowa. Doesn’t this make you re-evaluate flyover country? And, no, not the part about us being honest.

Everybody — who is shown, that is — happily takes this in stride. They laugh, smile and reset their notions of Iowa. You have to wonder if there are angrier outtakes. This is New York, after all.

The video is posted at the “This is Iowa” website, where the hip couple mentioned above is prominently featured, along with Iowans surfing on white-water courses, riding on bike trails and selling craft booze. There are stories about a “corporate vice president of inclusion organization development” and the organic Frontier Co-Op.

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Did you know Iowa has 18,000 miles of waterways for canoeing and kayaking, along with 72 state parks? Yes, it’s true. This is Iowa.

It’s a fine pitch. Well done. Clever. I haven’t seen New Yorkers so fooled since the 1980s when Folgers Crystals replaced the regular coffee at Tavern on the Green.

But excuse me for feeling a touch of whiplash, governor.

To outsiders, we tout our outdoor recreation. But Iowans who voted in 2010 for more funding to clean up our water and expand outdoor recreation have been told, repeatedly, to go jump in one of our many impaired lakes by members of your Grand Old Party. We’ve got 72 parks, but if your friends in the Iowa Farm Bureau get their way, we won’t be adding more public conservation lands to the list.

Diversity and inclusion are great 2019 sales pitches, but they ring awfully hollow when you’re fundraising and campaigning on old-fashioned anti-immigration fearmongering. Rolling back health care access for transgender Iowans and altering the state’s judicial system to please folks who oppose LGBTQ civil rights might dampen the allure of spacious digs for young coastal professionals.

Maybe this tech-savvy, inclusive blue-state-tinted sales pitch can camouflage a very red-state, retro political agenda that’s remade Iowa over the past three years. An agenda that’s prompted some Iowans to rethink Iowa. But I have a feeling the red alert beacons will shine through in a big way as the 2020 election nears, and Iowa’s Team Trump GOP and its deep-pocket allies spring into action against the scourge of “socialism.”

It’s going to get dirty. The whole state could become a very big mud room.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd,dorman@thegazette.com

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