The pace of pre-filed bills for the 2011 legislative session is still pretty slow, so we’ll give attention to our former media colleague State Rep.-elect David Sanders and his first formal endeavor.

Sanders pre-filed HB 1005, which would change the state nickname from "The Natural State" back to "The Land of Opportunity" – a move likely to create debate among lawmakers and state bureaucrats within Arkansas’ tourism and economic development circles.

As the short bill indicates, changing the state nickname would declare a different mindset for Arkansans, if the bill is adopted.

"Because of the future outlook for the development of business, industry, and agriculture in this state, the official nickname for the State of Arkansas is proclaimed to be ‘The Land of Opportunity’," the bill reads.

Sanders thinks "Land of Opportunity" speaks more of Arkansas to not only its citizens but to the rest of the world.

A little history background: Arkansas has had a few state nicknames including "The Bear State", "The Toothpick State", "The Wonder State" and of course, currently "The Natural State."  Read here for more background on those choices.

Arkansas first proclaimed itself "The Land of Opportunity," thanks to a group of Little Rock businessmen in the 1940’s seeking to promote economic investment in the state.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:

In 1941, the tag phrase appeared for the first time on Arkansas auto license plates. In 1953, the Arkansas General Assembly took note of the committee’s efforts: House Concurrent Resolution 26 explicitly jettisoned “Wonder State,” noting that it did not “command the popular appeal that it once had,” and adopted “The Land of Opportunity” as Arkansas’s new nickname, alluding to a bright outlook for the development of business, industry, and agriculture.

That nickname was substituted in the mid-1990’s after a 10-year branding campaign by the Arkansas parks system to endear Arkansas as "The Natural State."

Will there be a fight over the nickname change? Could be. State economic officials quietly confide that they have no problem with the change. State tourism officials are unlikely to want to lose one of their major branding components.

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