Former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie paid a call on a welcoming audience of Abiitan Mill City residents this week to talk about his current job promoting Minnesota’s bid to host a three-month long World’s Fair Expo in 2023. 

“This will be like hosting a Super Bowl every day for 90 days,” he told the Abiitan residents, many of whom are well-known Minnesota boosters.

Ritchie came to Abiitan, the only senior living development in downtown Minneapolis, as part of Programming and Events Manager Tommaso Cammarano’s civic and cultural program series designed to “bring Abiitan to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Abiitan.” 

In his role as president of the “Expo 2023” bid committee, Ritchie gave the audience a detailed background on how the World’s Fair bid came about and the behind-the-scenes activities required to get the proposal completed and endorsed by President Obama last December as the United States’ official bid. It ultimately required a complicated White House approval process, preceded by site visits and a full-scale review by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“We submitted a fantastic application.  Then we took [Department of Commerce officials] around town last fall and blew their minds,” Ritchie said. “They said, ‘We get it now.’”

The final bid had to be submitted to the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions with President Obama’s approval by Dec. 15, 2016.  It arrived just two hours before the deadline, Ritchie said, after the U.S. Secretary of Commerce intervened to make it a top priority.

If Minnesota wins the bid, the three-month event could bring 12 million foreign visitors and $4 billion in tourism spending to Minnesota, Ritchie said. “We will also get media coverage for decades.”

The ongoing buzz from a World’s Fair will also help Minnesota better compete globally for talent, he said. “Hosting a World’s Fair put Seattle on the map.” Personally, Ritchie said, his visit to the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a 12 year old “changed my life” by opening his eyes to all the possibilities the future holds.

The theme for the expo would be: “Wellness and Well-Being for All: Healthy People, Healthy Planet.” It would run from May 15 to August 15, 2023, on a 60-acre site owned by the University of Minnesota, which is heavily involved in the planning.

The next big step in the bid process is a site visit from the Bureau of International Expositions in March.  Then the Minnesota Expo 2023 bid committee will make its final presentation in Paris in June.  The final decision will be made Nov. 22, 2017.  The other two finalist in the competition are Argentina and Poland.

Ritchie says his confidence of winning the bid is high because Minneapolis already has significant infrastructure and expertise to handle an expo, such as a world-class airport and light rail system.  “We can talk about things other cities can’t,” he said, noting that the State Fair and the Mall of America routinely handle large daily crowds and the experts from those venues are eager to help. “We know we can rise to the occasion,” Ritchie said.

The Expo 2023 bid is a bipartisan private/public partnership that would be self-financing like the State Fair, he said, noting that no federal funds are involved. “When you get together as a community you can do big things,” he said. “We really came together with incredible grass roots support. We’ve been blessed with support.”

Mark Ritchie talks with Abiitan resident Doug Baker Sr.