- Associated Press
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s general license plate is getting its first makeover in more than 20 years.

The Legislature’s Budget Section approved the new design unveiled by the state Transportation Department on Wednesday.

The new plate retains many of the same design components of the current plate, which was released in 1993: a blue sky, a butte and a bison. But there are now two wheat sheaves instead of one, and the state’s tourism slogan, “Discover the Spirit,” has been replaced by “Legendary,” a brand established in 2002 by tourism officials.

North Dakota Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jamie Olson called it “a modern, fresher look.”

Lawmakers set aside $6.8 million last year to make and distribute the plates, which will be manufactured by prisoners at the state penitentiary. Olson said the state is still procuring digital-printing equipment to make the plates, which are flat instead of embossed metal, as required by lawmakers.

Olson said more than 1 million license plates must be replaced with the new plate by June 30, 2017 through the regular renewal process. No new plates likely will be issued until sometime next year, she said.

State Department of Transportation Director Grant Levi said the design was done by DOT staff with input from the state tourism department and Rough Rider Industries, the prison’s manufacturing operation.

Levi told lawmakers that one goal of the new design was to “retain the beautiful North Dakota skyline,” and that the bison is staying to “represent the history of this great state.”

Wheat is still prominent on the plate but has been moved from a single sheaf on the bottom to two sheaves on top that border “Legendary North Dakota” like quotation marks.

By law, the state’s nickname “Peace Garden State” remains on the plate, in reference to the International Peace Garden that straddles the international boundary between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Missing on the new info-packed plate is any reference to North Dakota’s unprecedented oil bonanza in the western part of the state.

Olson said that omission was done because designers wanted more of a “statewide” focus.

The state’s current license plate got an award for being the best new plate of 1993 by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.

“Some people actually have plates that are that old but the reflectivity that helps at night time is beginning to fade,” she said.

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