The top line of the huge billboard along the highway in Moorhead reads, in massive letters, “North Dakota.” The line below, in smaller letters, reads, “Open for Business.”
That’s offensive? Seriously?
Apparently, to some, it is absolutely offensive. Maybe not because of the actual words on the billboard, but because of the fact the billboard is located on Minnesota soil, in a city close to the border between the two states, another Minnesota city that often expresses concern about losing out on business opportunities to the neighbor to the west, which is perceived, mostly when it comes to taxes and regulation, to be more business-friendly.
So what’s with the billboard? Well, the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce has launched a marketing campaign to tout North Dakota’s booming economy – thanks to the oil patch, of course – and the state’s pro-business climate.
The billboard late last week got quite a bit of attention in the media, mostly because officials with the Fargo-Moorhead Chamber of Commerce and other, similar agencies expressed concern about the billboard and said they want it taken down. People whose job it is to create partnerships and collaborate with decision-makers and stakeholders in both North Dakota and Minnesota don’t want to create any needless, unnecessary tension, and they think the billboard will potentially do just that.
The Associated Press story written about the billboard dust-up indicated that the billboard is just one part of a larger marketing effort by the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce that “mocks” recent legislative decisions made in the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. That’s a pretty strong word, mock, but not surprising when you consider that the United States Chamber of Commerce is a partisan, political and right-wing organization that mocks pretty much every tax and every business regulation on the books, no matter the state.
But does the billboard itself mock Minnesota? The thinking here is that it does not. It’s not like it reads, “Minnesota: Closed for Business.” Let’s see the rest of this Greater North Dakota Chamber marketing campaign and then decide. Chances are, though, it does and/or will mock Minnesota, because – thanks again to that oil boom – the Greater North Dakota Chamber and the state’s Republican-led, anti-tax, anti-regulation legislature have grown quite boastful of late, as if they played a significant role in the discovery of billions of barrels of oil and shale under their feet.
Greater North Dakota Chamber leaders say the effort is really all about spurring change in St. Paul. No kidding. Anyone who knows anything about the U.S. Chamber and its underling chambers at the state level knows that the U.S. Chamber won’t be happy until all 50 legislatures are home to Republican majorities and overseen by Republican governors.
Page 2 of 2 - But, this billboard? At this point, it’s just not worth the fuss. If it instead read something like, “North Dakota: We’re crude, and proud of it!” then you might have a real conversation-starter.
Minnesota is a great place to live, learn, work and play.