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'Arnold says' ad blitz aims to swipe biz

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Billboards featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are expected to begin appearing around the country shortly in an effort to promote doing business in California.Kevin Winter / Getty Images file
/ Source: San Francisco Business Times

The Governator is fighting back.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to be featured in an upcoming series of billboard ads touting California as a favorable place to do business, according to people with knowledge of the effort. The ads are meant to counter campaigns that several states such as Nevada and Arizona have launched to lure California-based businesses to their region.

The billboards -- using the slogan "Arnold says..." -- are expected to be placed in western states and in Times Square in New York as early as June.

Clear Channel Outdoor, the Phoenix-based outdoor ad firm, and ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles are donating services for the effort, a source said.

Organizers of the effort are banking on Schwarzenegger's star appeal to give the ad campaign some buzz. Schwarzenegger has stressed that he wants to improve the state's business climate in order to attract new companies and retain the businesses that are already here.

At least one state, Nevada, said it has increased its marketing effort to California-based businesses. Jeanie Ashe, marketing director for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, said her office geared up its advertising in California last year during the gubernatorial recall campaign. At that time, she said, "We heard more and more from California businesses, almost this feeling of desperation" about California's business climate.

Nevada spent more than $560,000 on California newspaper ads last year and will match that this year, Ashe said. She said Nevada attracted 24 companies from California last year. "What we're doing now works," she said.

Members of the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth, a privately financed group of business executives in the state, helped plan the Schwarzenegger ad campaign. It is unclear which members of the group were most active in developing the campaign. Among the Bay Area-based members of the commission are financier Warren Hellman, Gap Inc. Chairman Donald Fisher, San Francisco Foundation Chief Executive Sandra Hernandez and Yahoo Inc. Chairman Terry Semel.

Representatives for Schwarzenegger and the commission declined to comment.