The Minnesota Legislature is considering awarding a $5 million grant to jumpstart planning for a possible World's Fair Expo in Bloomington in 2027.
The state grant, part of the economic development omnibus bill, would be the first public funding earmarked for the expo. Planners envision an event that will highlight health and the environment, with a months-long trade show expected to draw several million visitors to Minnesota should the United States be chosen as the host.
"It's a significant first step in helping Minnesota and Bloomington welcome the world to our community," Mayor Tim Busse wrote in a letter of support to legislators. "The city of Bloomington and Bloomington Port Authority is excited to be the home for the Expo 2027. And we are committed to working with the host committee to ensure that this is an event that makes the United States and Minnesota proud."
Sponsorships and private funding are intended to cover most of the event cost, but the state money is intended to kickstart planning work as the expo committee begins courting funders and sponsors in earnest.
The money would go toward designing expo buildings and the infrastructure to support them, and making financial plans. It could also be used to pay committee staff, and to cover other expenses dating back up to three months, the bill states.
If approved in the omnibus bill — and if Bloomington wins the expo — the $5 million in state funding would flow through the Bloomington Port Authority.
Bloomington only gets the state money if the U.S. wins the competition for the 2027 expo. The expo governing body, based in France, is also weighing bids from Argentina, Spain, Thailand and Serbia. Delegates including former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci and University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar presented Thursday to members of the International Bureau of Expositions, along with Busse and a representative from Triple Five, which owns the Mall of America.
A decision from the bureau is expected by July.
Nonprofit organization Minnesota USA Expo, formed in 2022 and co-chaired by Timberwolves co-owner Marc Lore, is charged with preparing the bid, but the group is working closely with Bloomington city officials and the Port Authority.
Though the event would last only a few months, city officials see a longer-term opportunity. Building the expo campus could help bring infrastructure needed to fully develop two large parcels between the Mall of America and the booming construction just west of the Minnesota River.
Rep. Nathan Coulter, D-Bloomington, who authored the bill included in the omnibus, said the expo is worth funding because he believes it will be an economic boon to Minnesota.
Estimates for the number of visitors the expo could draw to the state have ranged from 7 million to 14 million people, with guesses at economic impact between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. Tax revenue, especially Bloomington hotel taxes, could be in the tens of millions.
"There really is a significant statewide benefit to this," Coulter said. "Millions of people would be coming to Minnesota, would be coming to Bloomington."