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July 2004

North Dakota Sells Naming Rights
James Downey reporting from Bismark, ND

The Governor of North Dakota announced today that the state has entered into a five-year deal with a major corporation to rename the state.

Republican Governor John Hoeven held a press conference to announce the agreement with the Nike Corporation, which will bring $100 million per year to the state.  "This is relief for the hard-working people in North Dakota.  That's $100 million per year in taxes they won't have to pay, almost 4% of our state budget.  And we won't even need to change the abbreviation for our state!"

While many states and municipalities in recent years have partnered up with businesses to name a "State Soft Drink" or a "Favorite City Snack," this is the first time that the naming rights for an entire state have been sold.  "Fundamentally, this isn't much different than selling the naming rights for a stadium on a university campus," said Gov. Hoeven.  "And it gets around that whole 'North' problem we've confronted for years."

North Dakota, now to be officially named Nike Dakota, has debated changing its name in the past, dropping "North" because of the perception that it decreased tourism in the state by conveying a colder image.

When asked, the Governor denied that there would be any additional changes associated with the partnership deal, and specifically said that state employees would not be required to wear a Nike 'swoosh' on official uniforms, nor would there be any changes to the official state emblem or flag.  "Not at this time.  Those are matters we are going to explore with the new legislature next year.  Of course, Nike has been very understanding about this, and realizes that there would be additional fees to take these steps."

Initial reaction in the state was positive.  Leaders in the state legislature, who were aware of the secret negotiations with Nike about the name change, were largely supportive because of the extra revenue which would be generated.  However, one democratic leader, who preferred to speak off the record, said "I'm all for finding alternative sources of revenue.  But leave it to a Hoeven to sell the name of the state.  He's always been gung-ho about privatizing state government.  I guess we'll just have to see how this plays in the election."

Like a number of other states, ND has a legislature which meets only every-other year.  Statewide elections will take place on Nov.2.  Gov. Hoeven, who was first elected to the office in 2000, is facing reelection on that date.  He is expected to win reelection with minimal difficulty.

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