It’s August, and we Minnesotans are getting itchy. We’re in our typical giddy, anticipatory State Fair state of mind. But as we prepare to celebrate our nation’s greatest statewide get together, let me ask you to look beyond the barns, the deep-fried ice cream and the roller coasters. Look beyond our borders, across oceans.
Imagine a World’s Fair right here in Minnesota — a global get-together that will move Minnesota to center stage for the entire planet.
Too often we Minnesotans think of ourselves as insular and isolated. The truth is we are one of the most globally minded places on Earth. Our educational, civic and cultural institutions, as well as many of our businesses, large and small, are international. We are a major player around the world.
And now we have an opportunity to invite the entire world to our back yard and to share our remarkable story. That opportunity is Expo 2023, the Minnesota World’s Fair.
It’s doable. It’s aspirational. It’s a signal of our leadership in scientific and cultural innovation. It’s about jobs, about investment in our community. It’s our time.
For more than 150 years, the United States, along with other major countries, has hosted world’s fairs every few years. In my lifetime there have been U.S.-hosted expos in Seattle, Spokane, San Antonio, Knoxville, New Orleans and, of course, New York, where I was fortunate enough to visit as a 12-year-old in 1964.
But a few years ago, our federal government decided that we didn’t need to do any more world’s fairs in the United States. Unfortunately, this shortsighted action took away an incredible opportunity to connect America’s communities, companies, universities and cultural institutions with millions from around the world. Since we stopped hosting Expos, an astounding 126 million people have attended world’s fairs — but none in the United States. Not only have we missed out on the economic benefits of hosting these events, but we have lost out on opportunities to excite our young people about careers in science and technology and to expand the world’s interest in the United States as a place to come for educational, recreational and cultural opportunities.
A group of Minnesotans thinks it is time to get back in the game. We have formed an exploratory committee to prepare a bid to host in 2023. With support from thousands of Minnesotans, we have raised some of the initial funding needed and we will soon be engaging in an exciting crowdsourcing campaign to find the most inspiring ideas.
Can we do this? Should we do this? You betcha! If Spokane and Seattle can, Minnesota certainly can. We are organizing big events all the time — from the Major League Baseball All-Star Game to the Super Bowl, and we clearly know how to be great hosts. But this is bigger. This is broader. This is about sharing who we are and where we are going as a state, as a country, as the entire planet. It is about the future — scientific and social innovation — and it is about our heritage and our culture.
This will be Minnesota’s 21st-century coming out party.
Yes, we can handle 10 million to 15 million visitors over the span of three months in the summer of 2023. Yes, we can put to good use the $4 billion to $6 billion in tourism spending this will generate. But much more important and lasting will be this opportunity to “brand” Minnesota on a global platform like no other. We all know the story about how hard it is for our colleges and companies to get folks to come here — but once they come here they fall in love and never leave. This will change perceptions.
Why Minnesota? Because we’re forward-looking and global-minded. Because we are passionate about tackling the world’s most pressing issues. Health and wellness, food safety, clean water, sustaining natural resources, and modernizing manufacturing are just a few of the great global challenges that Minnesotans are tackling. We can share our experiences and innovations and learn from the more than 100 other countries that would come and share as well. We can because we’re that good.
If you are excited about this possibility, you can find out more by coming to our exhibit at the State Fair — on the ground floor of the grandstand — and by checking out our website at www.expo2023.info.
This month, we celebrate all that makes Minnesota special. In nine years, let’s invite the world to visit so they can join us in all we want to share, and see all that we have to offer.
Mark Ritchie is Minnesota’s secretary of state and chair of the Expo 2023 advisory committee.