New Michigan license plates unveiled

ST. IGNACE, Mich. – With a view she called “Pure Michigan” as a backdrop, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson unveiled two new license plates today: a colorful Mackinac Bridge plate and the Pure Michigan plate, which will eventually replace the state’s standard blue bar plate.

Johnson, guests and media made a rare visit to the top of the bridge’s South Tower , which stands more than 500 feet over the blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac.

“We figured there could not be a better place than one of the most familiar landmarks in Michigan – open for more than a half century and traveled by 160 million cars – to celebrate these new plates,” she said.

The Mackinac Bridge opened 55 years ago and is the third-largest suspension bridge in the world. Joining Johnson was William Gnodtke, chairman of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan , part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

Michigan will move to a new standard plate that features a rolling blue wave and the Pure Michigan brand. Like the current blue and white standard plate, it will have a configuration of up to seven characters and will be available at no additional cost. Incorporating Pure Michigan on the state’s license plates is a way to reinforce the Pure Michigan brand message both in state and around the country.

“Pure Michigan license plates are a great way for Michiganders to show their pride and help spread the word that our state is a great state to live, work, play and build a business,” said MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney.

With Pure Michigan on the rise, the number of partners and stakeholders throughout the state has grown. Pure Michigan has also become a rallying force for the state, tapping into the Michigan-pride of residents, visitors and businesses.

The Mackinac Bridge plate, which will gradually replace the state’s Spectacular Peninsulas plate, features the bridge against a sunrise background. It will also have the state’s Pure Michigan branding. The new Mackinac Bridge plate will cost $5 in addition to regular registration fees.

Both new plates display the Pure Michigan logo at the top, replacing the block letter MICHIGAN on current plates.

“Pure Michigan is our signature brand and represents the best of what our state has to offer,” Johnson said. “These appealing plates will carry that message beyond our borders, generating interest in our state, tourism and economic benefits.”

Johnson thanked Sen. Goeff Hansen, who chairs the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee, for his efforts to create the Pure Michigan plate. He introduced Senate Bill 1180, which would write into law that the standard plate may carry the Pure Michigan brand.

The new standard plates have printed at the bottom, the address of Michigan ’s official travel and tourism website. This will help drive additional traffic to the site, which is the most-visited state tourism website in the nation. University, fundraising and veteran/military service plates will include the Pure Michigan logo but not the web address.

Residents are expected to be able to order a new Pure Michigan standard plate beginning in early 2013 and the Department of State will begin issuing the new Mackinac Bridge plates after that. Current Spectacular Peninsulas and standard plates will remain valid for the duration of their registration period.

About 1.2 million Spectacular Peninsulas and 5.7 million standard “blue bar” plates are in circulation. Both plates were first issued on Jan. 1, 2007. The blue bar plate replaced the “Old Blue” plate that had a 24-year run as Michigan ’s standard plate. Spectacular Peninsulas replaced the Great Lakes Splendor plate that served as the state’s graphic plate for 10 years. Michigan manufacturers about 1.4million plates a year. The work is done by inmates at a correctional facility in Adrian .

The plan for a new standard plate was developed in talks between Secretary of State and MEDC staff about how to help promote the Pure Michigan brand throughout state government.

 During the same time frame as the Pure Michigan plate discussions, a new license plate prominently displaying the Mackinac Bridge was proposed to Johnson by representatives from the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Gnodtke welcomed the new plate option for motorists.

“The Mackinac Bridge stands not only as a vital connection between our peninsulas but as an example of what the people of Michigan can achieve by working together,” he said. “We encourage residents to show their pride in the bridge and in our state with one of these magnificent license plates.”