Bloomington has emerged as a global competitor to host the 2027 World Expo, based on a pitch to incorporate Minnesota's medical innovations into a showcase for the national theme of health and wellness.
President Joe Biden on Thursday formally authorized the city as host location in the United States bid, which was delivered to a coordinating agency for world expositions in Paris.
It's the latest development in Minnesota's yearslong chase to host Expo, also known as the World's Fair, after being a finalist for hosting rights in 2023.
"Minnesotans have made a mark on the world in a way that makes the world very friendly and open and wanting to know more," said Mark Ritchie, the former secretary of state who is now president of Global Minnesota and leading efforts to bring Expo to the state. "We felt like everything that we did in the first round gave us an incredible head start, an incredible leap ahead for this second round."
The World Expo, first held in London in 1851, has continued to be a way for countries to showcase their innovations. The next World Expo starts in October in Dubai, after being delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. hasn't hosted a World Expo since 1984 in New Orleans, largely because the federal government later banned spending to build U.S. pavilions. Minnesota's delegation in Washington, working with the administrations of Donald Trump and now Biden, have been pushing to lift that ban.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, whose Third District includes Bloomington, sponsored a budget amendment that passed Wednesday to spend $2 million to plan for the U.S. pavilion at the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, Japan, a prerequisite to securing Minnesota's bid.
"Bloomington, the Twin Cities metro area, the state of Minnesota and the United States will benefit from showcasing American innovation on the world's stage," Phillips said on the House floor.
The U.S. will find out in February which countries will compete for the 2027 Expo. A final vote on the location is expected in November 2022.
Minnesota competed to make Bloomington the host of the 2023 Expo, but the hosting rights went to Buenos Aires. Since then, the state has been fine-tuning its pitch of health, wellness and sustainability.
Minnesota's bid incorporates connections to local medical device companies, research at the University of Minnesota and world-famous treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Ritchie said the pandemic has only drawn more attention to the need for global health equity.
"We had chosen the theme of health and wellness because it was consistent with what we know about how our region is extraordinary and exemplary," he said. "It's a universal topic. We didn't know there would be a pandemic."
Bloomington is considered the ideal Expo backdrop for its proximity to medical tech companies, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and transit infrastructure. The city is home to the Mall of America, which already attracts tourists from across the globe.
"The access to the airport, the access to the freeways, its location in proximity to the Twin Cities are all things that make Bloomington a great location," said Mayor Tim Busse. "But this isn't just a Bloomington thing, it's a Minnesota thing. It's going to be a team effort."
Some permanent infrastructure would have to be built if the city wins the bid to host the 2027 Expo, which projections show could draw more than 10 million visitors.
Briana Bierschbach • 651-925-5042