FARGO — The state of North Dakota received global exposure recently in an out-of-the-ordinary place — 30,000 feet in the air.

A 25-page supplement in last month’s issue of American Way, the in-flight magazine for American Airlines, highlighted the state’s economy, recreational options and quality of life.

North Dakota Tourism Director Sara Otte Coleman said a magazine in every seatback pocket, on every American plane, amounts to a lot of visibility.

“That’s a big group of people that now have hopefully a visual, an image, an awareness of our state,” she said.

American is the world’s largest airline, carrying about 200 million passengers a year, including 16 million during the month of May.

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Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the magazine spread likely had an impact on travelers, even with competition from electronic devices.

“Any kind of articles... about this being a great state and us, as a metropolitan area, being a good community, they’re all extremely helpful,” he said.

Carsten Morgan, vice president of special projects at Ink Global, the company that publishes American Way along with 20 other airline magazines, traveled to North Dakota in early spring to scout areas of interest for the “Spotlight” segment.

He said many people’s perceptions of Fargo are still based on the movie of the same name, released two decades ago.

“The real story is much more enlightening,” Morgan said.

State's contribution

North Dakota has been on Morgan's radar for about a year as a place in the midst of an economic renaissance.

The front page of a supplement featuring North Dakota from the May 2019 issue of American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines. Special to The Forum
The front page of a supplement featuring North Dakota from the May 2019 issue of American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines. Special to The Forum

The state’s economy is diverse, he said, citing agriculture, energy, technology and health care sectors. He said he was also impressed with the innovation taking place at North Dakota State University and University of North Dakota.

“That really blew us away,” he said.

Nearly a dozen institutions, organizations and companies from both ends of the state bought ads in the special section, including NDSU, UND, Sanford Health and Scheels.

The state spent $59,000 for a recreation and lifestyle ad, along with one focused on its emergence as a leader in unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, Otte Coleman said.

North Dakota has been featured before in Delta Sky, the in-flight magazine for Delta Airlines, in 2015 and 2010.

In those instances, a financial commitment from the state was required ahead of time. That wasn’t the case this time, she said.

Attracting tourists, workers

Otte Coleman said timing was good for the spread because it could inspire people to travel here this summer.

It’s also a good fit because of the markets into which American flies — Chicago and Dallas, by way of Fargo and Bismarck.

Dallas is important because many energy workers take those flights regularly, she said, while North Dakota has been working to attract visitors from Chicago for several years.

Ads run regularly in Chicago-area publications, and a large vinyl “wrap” is in place at Chicago’s Union Station displaying North Dakota’s vast, scenic spaces.

A vinyl "wrap" display promoting North Dakota as a vacation destination is shown at Union Station in Chicago. Special to The Forum
A vinyl "wrap" display promoting North Dakota as a vacation destination is shown at Union Station in Chicago. Special to The Forum
A vinyl "wrap" display promoting North Dakota as a vacation destination is shown at Union Station in Chicago. Special to The Forum
A vinyl "wrap" display promoting North Dakota as a vacation destination is shown at Union Station in Chicago. Special to The Forum

According to Johnson, tourism and jobs go hand in hand.

Marketing aimed at attracting visitors, he said, promotes the same assets used by economic development and workforce experts to entice people to move here.

“You’re lifting all the boats, so to speak,” he said.

The magazine spread will, no doubt, lift the state’s profile to some degree, but Otte Coleman said they won’t be able to tell an exact return on investment.

“We aren’t quite there yet,” she said.