What's with the Ohio tourism signs popping up in downtown Detroit?

Ohio tourism sign on Louis Kamper Building in downtown Detroit
Ohio tourism sign on Louis Kamper Building in downtown Detroit Photo credit Zach Clark/WWJ

DETROIT (WWJ) – A new billboard or sign popping up in downtown Detroit is no big deal. There are hundreds of them. But certain ones have been raising eyebrows in recent weeks.

Over the last several weeks people have been noticing signs promoting the virtues of Ohio smack-dab in the middle of downtown.

But why? On a new Daily J podcast, WWJ’s Zach Clark learns it’s all part of a white-hot battle for tourism dollars.

He headed to the Louis Kamper Building at the corner of Grand River and Washington Boulevard to see the Ohio sign for himself. It reads “the heart of it all” and directs people to a website boasting about Ohio’s tourism.

Lydia Mihalik, Director of the Ohio Department of Development, tells WWJ Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine rolled out the state’s new brand a few weeks ago, which is “supported by an integrated, multi-channel advertising campaign.

Not dissimilar from our state’s “Pure Michigan” campaign, it also targets not only Ohioans, but also “very select out-of-state markets,” according to Mihalik.

Tourists visiting Michigan accounted for nearly $200 million in tax revenue last year, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, so it’s not surprising Ohio would be looking to draw visitors from its northern neighbor.

While some Detroiters aren’t thrilled to see advertising from Michigan’s “rival” state, Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz says it’s fair play.

“It’s the exact same reason why we market in Cincinnati,” he said. “The business that Detroit now gets for the leisure business has really changed over the last 15 years. We all know about the many improvements to the experience in Detroit, so they know Detroit and Michigan is a great place to market to because there are a lot of people traveling there.”

“We go to Cincinnati because it’s a good market, a test market for a lot of consumer goods, so there are a lot of people there who work in offices that are really wanting to get away to places where they can experience a little bit different lifestyle, a little bit different surroundings, and they do love Michigan,” he said.

But it's not all competition between Michigan as Ohio, as Chris Moyer with Visit Detroit says the Great Lakes region collaborates to draw visitors from all over, including from overseas.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Zach Clark/WWJ