It’s cold right now. But no matter the time of year, we know it’s hard to break the ice in Minnesota. In 2015, we noticed a renewed conversation on the subject, with articles in nearly every local publication stating, and sometimes dismissing, the challenge of the local transplant. The truth is, you can find articles going back decades that debate the supposed merits of Minnesota Nice.
We get it. This is an issue. In fact, we know all of these individual experiences add up to something big — a regional reputation that’s more than just an interesting debate or quirky cultural phenomenon. The fact that our region retains its own at the highest rates in America makes it more of a challenge to break in as an outsider or recognize that challenge as an insider. More than that, data suggest that this is a strategic concern.
Our state’s demographer is one among many leaders sounding an alarm that should give us pause. Minnesota’s labor force growth is approaching zero. In an era where we will be increasingly reliant on new arrivals to Minnesota, there are not just social but significant economic ramifications. We need all of the friends we can make, and having a reputation for being unwelcoming won’t help.
So what can we do about it? Well, a lot of people are actively working to solve the problem. We know, because we’re among them. The fact that our respective groups were created in the past few years doesn’t mean we’re the first to tackle these issues. Transplants and native Minnesotans have worked and continue to work together on it. Companies and community groups are working on it. Some are long established; many are new.
What our region has yet to do is work together at scale. We think it’s time to rally around the challenge, set a lofty goal and make a difference. So here’s our New Year’s resolution: Starting now, we are coming together in partnership through an initiative called “Make It. MSP.” to personally welcome 10,000 people to our region. Others are and will continue to join us. Our work starts today.
Each of our contributions looks different. St. Paul Hello hosts ceremonies for new residents where newcomers get a warm Minnesota hat. But you don’t need to throw a gala to tell someone they belong. Whether you plan your own event, invite someone to dinner or simply start an intentional conversation with a newbie at your office, you can be radically welcoming.
At Break the Bubble, they help adults make new friends. At Impact Hub, they connect their global community to local changemakers and entrepreneurs. At Newcomer Nosh, they invite newcomers to pull up a seat and break bread together. The common denominator is inclusion.
Welcoming 10,000 people will take a lot of work. To get started, we are launching a January blitz to bring people out of their winter dens and into a social setting. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, so we’re testing the theory. Starting next Saturday — Jan. 9 — hundreds of people, including us, will launch 4Play MSP, a new seasonal, regional play day designed to invite people to experience the regional asset Minnesotans value most — the great outdoors.
We invite you to that event. We challenge you to make your own resolution to redefine Minnesota Nice. Be an ambassador in your community. Invite someone to your home. Head outside; find some ice and break it. There are plenty of ways to welcome. Let’s be known for how well we do it.
Not sure where to start? Check out our calendar, learn more or just get inspired by visiting www.makeitmsp.org/radicalwelcomers.
Ashley Hanson is the producer of St. Paul Hello. Danielle Steer is the manager of operations and member services at Impact Hub MSP. Mariano Garcia is a board member of Break the Bubble. Shannon Watson is a co-founder of Newcomer Nosh.