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Ohio tourism billboards pop up in downtown Detroit, highlighting rivalry

Posted at 5:57 PM, May 23, 2023

DETROIT (WXYZ) — When you mention the words Michigan and Ohio in the same sentence, one might envision a longstanding rivalry on the gridiron.

Or if you’re a history buff, you might think of the Toledo War. Both states fought a literal border war in the 1830s.

Now, an Ohio billboard campaign in downtown Detroit highlights the competition over tourism. There are actually two billboards in the area. They read, "Ohio, the heart of it all."

7 Action News gathered thoughts from Detroiters on seeing the billboard on the Louis Kamper building on Washington Boulevard.

"Not (any thoughts) that I will say on camera. No," one man said.

One woman said, "I feel like, in general, people from Michigan have a thing against Ohio, and then for them to just so blatantly advertising in the heart of our city. Come on!”

Another lady said, “It’s in the wrong place. Could be on I-75 headed south.”

There were strong opinions from some and more diplomatic views from others.

"It's nice and clean. Whoever did it did a great job," one woman stated.

One man reasoned, “People visit New York City, they visit Washington DC, the Grand Canyon, you know. What’s the difference? Ohio, it’s close by. There’s cool stuff there.”

“Well, we really have to thank Ohio. Portsmouth, Ohio is the original home of the Detroit Lions before they came up here," another man explained.

7 Action News spoke with Ohio’s director of development Lydia Mihalik.

She said Michigan makes up 20% of Ohio’s out-of-state marketing campaign, which also includes new TV advertisements.

“We had record spending in the tourism economy last year (of) $53 billion. It supports more than 425,000 jobs in our state," Mihalik explained.

She said for every dollar Ohio spent on tourism advertising in 2022, it received $73 in direct visitor spending and $5 in state tax revenue.

One woman said, “I would consider going to Ohio. But it’s the same thing. They’re pushing Ohio over in Michigan, and we’re pushing Michigan in Ohio.”

7 Action News reached out to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Travel Michigan, which heads up the Pure Michigan campaign. MEDC said the state received $11.16 in state tax revenue for every dollar spent on tourism advertising in 2022.

“Come to Michigan," the woman added.