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Chicago Officials Spar With South Dakota Over Airport Ads


A South Dakota ad campaign has ruffled feathers in Chicago. Next month at O'Hare International Airport, ads will be going up that encourage businesses to move to South Dakota. The ads - Prepare your Business for Take Off and, Our Economy is First Class - play on air travel, but not in the way the South Dakota governor staff had originally wanted. NPR's David Schaper reports that the original ads proposed by the state evidently rubbed Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, the wrong way.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: I'm standing near one of the TSA security checkpoints at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where dozens of people are lined up - some of them with a little bit of dread in their eyes -waiting for the somewhat uncomfortable security screening. So the state of South Dakota thought this would be a good place to hang up banner ads touting the relatively easy-going nature of its business climate.

PAT COSTELLO: You know, No Government Pat-Downs, Keep your Change in your Pockets, We're Hands-Off when it comes to Business.

SCHAPER: Pat Costello is the Commissioner of the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development.

COSTELLO: We're trying to kind of compare the ease of doing business in South Dakota with some of the, you know, hassles maybe coming through the check-in areas of the TSA and stuff, and it was really kind of a lighthearted deal.

SCHAPER: But the city of Chicago didn't think so. It rejected the ads. Spokespeople for the city's Department of Aviation and for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did not return numerous calls and emails seeking an explanation. Although Costello says the city suggested the comparisons with security pat-downs may have been against TSA rules. But as for the other ads, such as one saying keep your profits?

COSTELLO: Repeatedly, time after time, we're told that they weren't acceptable and that at one point, that the mayor's office wasn't going to allow any states to advertise in the airport there.

SCHAPER: It was a response that Costello says proved South Dakota's point - that doing business in Chicago is overly-burdensome and the regulatory environment is heavy-handed.

COSTELLO: How ironic that here we're trying to spend money in Chicago, in Illinois, and we're having a tough time on really, what I think most people would consider pretty lighthearted, fun, whimsical types of phrases.

SCHAPER: So South Dakota officials got their message across in another way - taking out full-page ads in Chicago's newspapers showing the banner ads that the city rejected under boldface type that says this is the ad Rahm Emanuel didn't want you to see. The more innocuous South Dakota ads were eventually approved by the city. They'll go up in the airport after the first of the year. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.

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