Are you a company trying to reach "active sports persons, nature tourists, and the general public"? Then a partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department might be for you. The TPWD, still smarting from last year's wildfires and brutal round of budget cuts, is searching for corporate sponsors.
But don't worry, Coca Cola-Dinosaur Valley State Park will not be appearing on maps anytime soon, as TPWD rules bar renaming its parks after corporations, according to Ramit Plushnick-Masti, the AP's Houston-based environment reporter. But, contracting with outside companies remained something of an unprecedented move. "While other state park agencies have dabbled with similar ideas or struck corporate sponsorship deals for specific projects, industry officials believe this could be the first time a department that oversees a state's natural resources actively seeks contract-based partnerships," Plushnick-Masti wrote.
What kind of corporate partners is TPWD seeking? According to a 31-page document outlining all the ways you can get your company's name attached to TPWD, the agency is looking for companies that sell cars, cell phones, beverages, insurance, outdoor apparel, computer equipment. Other welcome partners include banks, energy companies, gas stations, and hotels. Other types of businesses are welcome to apply, but will be approved at TPWD's sole discretion.
All ads must be deemed "in the best interest of TPWD" and "cannot conflict with TPWD's mission and goals." The agency will also refuse to partner with organizations that would "create the appearance of a conflict of interest or negatively affect the public image of TPWD."
“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is a trusted brand, synonymous with outdoor experiences, wildlife, state parks and conservation,” Carter Smith, TPWD executive director said in a statement. “We believe that this private-public partnership will be a smart business move for the right companies, offering access to a marketplace of millions of outdoor enthusiasts, and recognizing partner roles in helping to preserve state parks and the outdoor lifestyle that are such important parts of our Texas heritage.”
Earlier this year, Smith took to YouTube to ask kindhearted Texans for donations to balance the department's budget, which the legislature trimmed it by $114 million (or seventeen percent).
While slashing the agency's budget, the legislature also created a legal mechanism to allow TPWD to contract with outside sponsors.