Gov. Pawlenty is going to meet with legislative leaders about the state's budget problems, I hear. And I also hear that more taxes can't be part of his solution.
Funny thing. He says people are sick of taxes and marketing consultant Laura Ries says people are sick of advertising. Not that this will stop advertisers, so why not look to them for the infusion of revenue Minnesota needs?
Fast-food chain KFC is giving two Indiana cities $7,500 so it can emblazon founder Colonel Sanders' face on hydrants and fire extinguishers to promote new "fiery" chicken wings.
Experts say to expect more ads on public property as companies look to cut through the clutter of traditional advertising. Cash-strapped governments have long sold space on mass-transit vehicles, benches, trash cans and other public property to help stretch budgets.
Note, however, the outlay is only $7,500 in Indiana and the payback two days later is more than 300 news items and mentions in hundreds of blogs across the country. KFC pulled off the same trick last year with $16,000 to help fix potholes in four cities. More than 1,500 potholes were branded "Re-Freshed by KFC" in chalk that lasted about a month.
Presumably, the fire hydrant paint will last a bit longer.
Governments already sell ad space on buses, trains, airport concourses, transit stops, trash cans and rest rooms. The bike share program launching in Minneapolis this year will also involve some ads.
But recurring ad revenue and the one-time promo dollars like KFC's are very small potatoes. Fixing the state budget will require bigger ideas.
Las Vegas is taking a different tack. Its city council has voted to move its city hall from the current location that's attractive to interests who want to anchor a new development with a sports arena that might attract a professional sports franchise. Given the city never had a soul to sell, why not sell off what little government it has?
So here's a thought for Minnesota. Why not swap the St. Paul Capitol grounds for Brookdale, the dying shopping center? It's the perfect location for a shrunken and more privatized public sector. Then we turn over the state property to developers. If necessary, throw in the Kelly Inn as a sweetener.
Okay, St. Paul isn't Las Vegas, and maybe the Vikings would turn down that location for a new stadium. But Vegas has shown that it's possible to build something from nothing as long as you concentrate on gambling and other fantasies.
Think of the theme park potential. Instead of constructing faux classical buildings, the originals could be turned into Government Land, where visitors could watch reenactors from the days when government actually worked. They could tour the portrait gallery to see Minnesota's last governor, and the people who came after him.
And then they could get down to what they came for and start gambling on the future.