Billboard Calls Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer 'Indiana Business Person of the Year'

A billboard critical of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has dubbed her "Indiana Business Person of the Year" because of restrictions the state had imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Swift, CEO of Swift Broadcasting Company, put up the graphic on a digital billboard that he owns near Interstate 69 and Interstate 80/90 toll roads in Angola, Indiana, according to The Detroit Free Press.

When the billboard first appeared on Friday, it displayed the words "Indiana Chamber of Commerce" but the chamber later asked that the phrase be removed and it had not given permission to use its name.

"The Indiana Chamber of Commerce had nothing to do with this. Someone used our name to help garner attention," chamber President Kevin Brinegar said in a statement.

"We are not in the business of attacking other states or individuals. We found this completely inappropriate and demanded it be taken down immediately."

Swift explained that he'd lived most of his life in Michigan, though he now lived in Indiana and saw many Michiganders coming to the state because of its differing COVID-19 regulations.

Swift said that Whitmer's policies were harming Michigan businesses. However, many restrictions were lifted on February 1. Indoor dining has resumed in bars and restaurants and other services like casinos and movie theaters are allowed to operate, albeit with reduced capacity and safety measures.

The state has not been under a stay-at-home order since May last year but Swift argued that Michigan businesses had still suffered and residents were visiting Indiana for "a sense of normalcy."

"I clearly understand the seriousness of COVID-19," Swift said. "I have personal friends who passed away from it."

Swift hopes the billboard will encourage people to think about the damage he believes Whitmer's policies are doing to business in Michigan, where he also owns radio stations.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has been criticized by the Republican-led legislature for the state's restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. There have been more than 15,000 confirmed deaths from the disease in Michigan, according to the state government.

"Michigan ranks as the best state in the Midwest for the lowest rate of new average COVID-19 cases according to CDC data," the governor's Press Secretary Bobby Leddy told The Detroit Free Press on Tuesday.

"To date, we have distributed roughly 546,000 more vaccines than Indiana and Michigan ranks 9th among all states, compared to Indiana who ranks 16th for total vaccines administered," he said.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Introduces Joe Biden
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer introduces Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks about health care at Beech Woods Recreation Center October 16, 2020 in Southfield, Michigan. A new billboard criticizes Whitmer's response to COVID-19. Chip Somodevilla//Getty Images