Our community's ability to organize human and financial resources around securing major events and projects has become legendary. Minneapolis is indeed in an enviable position among our peer cities. So it's no surprise that an idea that seemed far-fetched just a few months ago has now picked up the steam needed to make it happen in a big way.
There were numerous observations and learnings from the meetings and encounters the group had during the expedition to Expo Milano 2015 that I will share in the Minute two weeks from now. This week and next, however, I will share an interview that Mark was kind enough to grant in the midst of this most recent Expo Milano visit. Thank you, Mark, for your insight.
What initially inspired you to pursue a World's Fair for Minnesota?
I was asked by the organizer of the Minnesota Festival of Nations, Steve Heckler, if I would be interested in working to bring a World’s Fair to Minnesota. My first thought was about how big an impact the 1964 NY world’s fair had on me - it opened my eyes to a future in science and technology that led me to go to college in biochemistry. My second thought was how often I hear the refrain - “It is so hard to recruit top talent or top students to Minnesota because they only think of us as a long way from the coasts and cold - but once we get people to visit they fall in love with Minnesota.” From this perspective the idea of hosting something ten times bigger than an Olympics that put our intellectual and technological leadership front and center inspired me to answer “yes” I think this is a good idea and would help make sure it happened.
What has been your greatest learning on what it will take to host a World's Fair since you began this journey?
The only barrier we face is the idea that we can’t do this. Of course we can do this. We host more people each day at the Mall of America than come to World’s Fair each day. We have bigger daily attendance at the State Fair than visitors to Expos - like the one in Milan. We know how to organize ourselves to accomplish big things.
What is the most valuable lesson you've learned so far from studying Expo Milano?
Milan is extremely well organized- no lines to get into the Expo, no lines at the women’s restrooms, clean beyond belief and always humming and everyone upbeat. This took great planning and experienced people. We will need to tap into those same networks of experienced people as we begin our planning.
What is the biggest obstacle to securing Expo 2023 for our region?
There are no big obstacles. One thing that would make things a bit easier would be having the U.S. government - either the Department of Commerce or the U.S. State Department - get re-engaged with the international body that does the coordination. As a non-member we have to pay double the fees - that will be about $1,000,000 extra that could be avoided by paying just $30,000 per year in dues.
Check out next week’s Minute for the second part of my interview with Mark Ritchie.