Lansing — Michigan’s economic development agency is sticking with an Iowa-based company to produce the state’s official travel guide — a decision that three years ago sparked controversy.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board voted Tuesday to award another three-year contract to Des Moines-based Meredith Corp. to produce the glossy “Pure Michigan” travel guide magazine three times each year.

The contract is worth $1.55 million annually, but the company is “guaranteeing” to lower the cost $800,000 each year through advertising sales, said Michelle Grinnell, public relations manager for Travel Michigan, the state’s tourism agency.

Meredith Corp., publisher of Midwest Living magazine, was in the final year of the contract to produce the 600,000-copy Pure Michigan magazine that had options for two one-year extensions.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp., where the state travel office is housed, decided not to grant the contract extensions and sought new bids in February, Grinnell said.

Seven companies submitted bids. An MEDC contract evaluation committee narrowed the proposals to three finalists based on scoring factors such as magazine graphic design, knowledge of the tourism industry in Michigan and distribution of the publication, Grinnell said.

“They received the highest score ... they also were the lowest bid,” Grinnnell said of Meredith Corp.

Democrats have criticized Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration in the past for awarding the “Pure Michigan” travel guide contract to an out-of-state company. In 2013, Democrat Mark Schauer tried to make the outsourcing an early issue in his failed campaign for governor against Snyder.

Grinnell addressed the issue during Tuesday’s meeting of the Michigan Strategic Fund board, which governs the MEDC.

Meredith Corp. employs 183 people in Michigan, with $12.5 million of in-state payroll for writers, graphic designers and advertising sales representatives, Grinnell said. The magazine is printed in Midland, she added.

“While the company’s headquarters are not here, there is a very large Michigan footprint in the production of these travel guides,” Grinnell said.

The new contract begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2018, and contains the option for two additional one-year extensions.

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