Supporters of the bill had portrayed it as a means to increase housing stock in towns and cities without large apartment complexes that tend to draw controversy. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)
Last week, the Executive Council unanimously approved a $15.5 million contract with GYK Antler LLC for ongoing state marketing campaigns.
The bulk of the funding will go toward domestic and international advertising through the Division of Travel and Tourism.
The marketing agency will continue to work with the state on an array of campaigns, including promotions for local food, employment opportunities, and state parks.
Last week, the councilors approved $400,000 for the “Buy Local New Hampshire Agriculture” campaign. The partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Business and Economic Affairs will be in place through June 2023. While there has been a spike of interest in local food during the pandemic, many New Hampshire residents purchase local food only on occasion. Researchers say this means there are significant opportunities for strengthening the local food market.
New Hampshire Employment Security will work with the Department of Business and Economic Affairs to continue marketing employment opportunities. Those initiatives received $400,000 in funding last week toward the goal of reducing unemployment and expanding the workforce.
George Copadis, commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security, pointed to virtual job fairs and a job portal as examples of how Employment Security was already working with the Department of Business and Economic Affairs to promote employment throughout the pandemic.
In a letter requesting the funds, Copadis said partnering with other state agencies was a good approach.
“Continuing this partnership would continue the momentum of economic recovery and help reduce unemployment throughout New Hampshire,” he said in the letter.
And the councilors agreed to $285,000 for publicizing state parks, an initiative the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources would also join.
“The Division of Parks and Recreation’s marketing efforts will focus on building awareness of state parks as New England’s premier location for outdoor recreation, promote the state parks license plate to increase sales, and increase mid-week camping occupancy in the parks,” according to Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs in a letter requesting the funds.
GYK Antler, the marketing firm that will be working with these state agencies, received the sole source contract for ad campaigns that have faced criticism in the past. The contractor was responsible for designing the vaccination ad campaign that featured Gov. Chris Sununu.
Democrats criticized the governor for featuring prominently in the campaign, which they said was self-serving and not the most effective way to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Councilor Cinde Warmington said that while GYK Antler is thought to be a Republican-leaning firm, that wouldn’t violate any rules about how state contracts are awarded.
“There has been concern raised in the past about GYK Antler being a political group,” Warmington said.
“I don’t know that there’s anything prohibited about that,” she said.
The founder and chairman emeritus of GYK Antler, Patrick Griffin, is a former Republican strategist and political consultant. He lists as past clients President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, and Gov. Mitt Romney, according to his LinkedIn page.
“This partisan Republican group is now providing services for more and more state agencies,” Warmington noted.
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