Some of the Twin Cities' largest companies pulled out the stops at U.S. Bank Stadium on Wednesday to dazzle and impress some special guests — hundreds of their own interns.

More than 1,000 interns milled about the stadium's covered field and a VIP club mingling with each other, munching nachos and pretzels and playing games as they learned more about the Twin Cities and why they should stay here to work after their internships are done.

Recruiters from Target, U.S. Bank, General Mills, Medtronic and other companies worked for months to organize the event. All face challenges attracting young workers at a time when the labor market is extremely tight. And interns, many having just finished college or entering their final year of it, tend to be more open to relocation than people who are further along in their careers.

"There's a handful of moments in a person's career when they are most likely going to be considering their options. ... It's a massive opportunity for us," said Matt Lewis, director of Make It MSP. Other regions do similar events, he said.

Companies want to improve their recruitment-conversion rates, the rate at which a potential employee accepts a full-time job offer. Nationally, businesses land roughly 50 percent of their recruits, Make It MSP said. Each company has different intern-conversion goals.

Last year, 63 percent of the local companies who participated in a pilot of the intern welcome event hit or exceeded their conversion goals. Event coordinators said the hope is that by working together as a region each company can reach its own goals.

"We have to make sure when they come to the city for the first time that they like it," said Heidi Riese, college relations event specialist with Land O'Lakes Inc. She added, "Whether Land O'Lakes gets that intern or U.S. Bank, it's a win for us. We are still retaining that talent within the Twin Cities area."

Attracting people to the Twin Cities is one of the priorities of Make It MSP, a division of regional promoter Greater MSP. Make It MSP already organizes events throughout the Twin Cities for professionals of color to network. While the urban area has grown faster than the state as a whole, it has trailed regions of comparable size, such as Denver, Seattle and Austin, Texas.

The idea for the intern welcome event originally came from a Target employee, who suggested companies would benefit from a joint event that complemented the intern outings that companies plan individually.

Last summer, Make It MSP played host to about 600 interns at U.S. Bank Stadium for the inaugural intern welcome. This year, the event was bigger, with booths spread across the field to appeal to interns' interests. Promoters for the Minnesota State Fair, Nice Ride bike sharing service, United Way, the NCAA Men's Final Four and Minnesota United FC soccer team participated.

"It allows for them to really get a sense of belonging," Riese said.

The event also had professional-development sessions and speakers to help give advice to attendees about what they should do after their internships.

Clarence Bumanglag, a senior from San Antonio who is interning in the IT department at Thrivent Financial, said the cooler weather and some of his colleagues' Midwestern accents surprised him when he first arrived to Minneapolis in May.

"I was just like, 'This wasn't summer weather,' " Bumanglag said. "This is winter weather in Texas."

The 21-year-old said he had never considered the Twin Cities for possible job prospects until now. But he said he may want to move somewhere on the West Coast for his dream job as a software developer at a gaming company.

Zach Dombeck, 21, who grew up in Bloomington, attends the University of Minnesota and has interned for Best Buy for two years, said he may move somewhere else for a while because has not lived out of state.

"I definitely see myself coming back here to settle down," he said.

"From talking to people from out of state, they notice that it's a real city and they are really surprised. ... They always pictured it was a little farm town," Dombeck said.

Anything companies can do to reach potential workers like the event Wednesday is a positive, said Carrie Andersen, who works in human resources at Pohlad Cos.

"We want to be a company that people want to stay working at. ... I think interns having a good experience is the first step," she said.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @nicolenorfleet