A sarcastic digital billboard located in Indiana near Michigan’s southern border names Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer the 2020 “Indiana businessperson of the year.”
Steve Swick, who owns Angola, Indiana-based Swick Broadcasting Company with radio stations in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, as well as billboards that rent for nearly $1,800 per month, has been taking jabs at the Michigan governor and what he perceives to be her overly burdensome coronavirus safety restrictions since April, but it’s his latest foray into political satire that’s captured the most media attention, he said.
The message appears on a 14-foot, by 48-foot, high-definition digital billboard located along Interstate 69 near I-90, just south of the Michigan border and insinuates that Whitmer and her administration are driving business from Michigan to the Hoosier state.
“It’s from the frustration that we see so much with Michiganders who are coming over the border,” said Swick, a Michigan native who grew up about 15 miles north of the billboard in Coldwater. Whitmer “effectively shut down and destroyed small businesses and industries up and down the entire state of Michigan and Michiganders were flooding over for some sense of normalcy.
“I’m not anti-Michigan at all, but I certainly feel for the people of Michigan, business owners and operators.”
Whitmer’s office shrugged off the billboard’s sentiment and said the “results speak for themselves.”
“Michigan ranks as the best state in the Midwest for the lowest rate of new average COVID-19 cases according to CDC data,” said Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy. “To date, we have distributed roughly 546,000 more vaccines than Indiana and Michigan ranks ninth among all states compared to Indiana who ranks 16th for total vaccines administered.”
“Gov. Whitmer continues to work across the aisle alongside her fellow governors, including Governor Holcomb, to end this pandemic once and for all, and hopes the Michigan legislature will work quickly to pass the MI COVID Recovery Plan, which includes billions of dollars in much-needed funding for Michigan families and small businesses, so that we can get back to normal life and grow our economy.”
Whitmer’s office referenced a recent University of Michigan study that estimates the closure of businesses between November and February likely prevented 2,000 deaths.
Swick, who describes himself as a conservative, argues that previous indoor dining bans and restrictions that require high school basketball players to wear masks during games make “no sense.”
He said he knows the virus is serious, but believes it is being handled too heavy-handedly in Michigan.
“I have friends who have passed away from it, so I get it,” Swick said. “I know it’s real. If you feel that you’re that vulnerable, stay home. America has to get back to work. The small-business industry, which is the lifeline of our communities, they have to get back to work.”
Swick said he’s proud to be bringing awareness to passing motorists and having some “sense of impact” on current issues that impact Michigan citizens and businesses.
A previous billboard design included an image of actor John Candy as an employee of the fictional theme park Wally World from the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation” accompanied by the words, “Sorry, folks, Michigan is closed again.” Another contrasted well-groomed caricatures of Indiana residents alongside a caveman depicting Michigan citizens at a time when salons remained closed due to health orders.
Whitmer’s gained national notoriety throughout the pandemic and was nominated by President Joe Biden to become vice president of the Democratic National Committee. She’s been impersonated on Saturday Night Live and inspired rap verses, but also inspired criticism that sparked numerous protests in Lansing.
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