Min­nesota aim­ing to host World’s Fair

The Palm Beach Post - - BUSINESS - By Steve Karnowski

MIN­NEAPO­LIS — Min­nesota is hop­ing to host the first World’s Fair on U.S. soil in nearly 40 years, but it will have to over­come bids by Poland’s third-largest city, Lodz, and the Ar­gen­tine cap­i­tal of Buenos Aires when a win­ner is se­lected in the com­ing days.

The events that in­tro­duced the world to the Eif­fel Tower, Space Needle and Fer­ris Wheel have lost some of their cul­tural rel­e­vance in an age of glob­al­iza­tion and cheap air travel. But World’s Fairs — now re­ferred to as World Ex­pos for the largest events held ev­ery five years and as spe­cial­ized ex­pos for smaller ones in other years — still draw mil­lions of visitors and al­low hosts to show off.

The Bu­reau of In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tions will choose the site of the 2022 or 2023 spe­cial­ized expo on Wed­nes­day in Paris. Min­nesota’s theme is health and well­ness, Lodz’s is the rein­ven­tion of cities and Buenos Aires’ high­lights cre­ative in­dus­tries in the dig­i­tal era.

Here’s a closer look:

What are ex­pos?

Ac­cord­ing to the BIE, ex­pos are global events aimed at “ed­u­cat­ing the public, shar­ing in­no­va­tions, pro­mot­ing progress and fos­ter­ing co­op­er­a­tion.” They’re meant to bring the world to­gether to find so­lu­tions to some fun­da­men­tal chal­lenge of hu­man­ity. Visitors tour pavil­ions where par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions show­case their con­tri­bu­tions on the theme, while ex­perts and di­plo­mats at­tend con­fer­ences on the side­lines.

Six-month-long world ex­pos are held ev­ery five years, while smaller, three-month “spe­cial­ized ex­pos” on spe­cific themes, which are what the BIE is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing, fall in be­tween. World lead­ers of­ten visit.

“Ex­pos re­mind us that there is much more that binds us to­gether than sep­a­rates us,” Jim Core, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tions Unit at the U.S. State Depart­ment, told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone from Paris on Fri­day.

Many Amer­i­cans have lost sight of how big th­ese events are be­cause the U.S. hasn’t hosted one since New Or­leans did so in 1984, but the Milan World Expo in 2015 drew around 20 mil­lion visitors, ac­cord­ing to the BIE. This sum­mer’s spe­cial­ized expo on Fu­ture En­ergy in As­tana, Kaza­khstan, drew 4 mil­lion peo­ple, and the 2020 Dubai World Expo is ex­pected to draw about 25 mil­lion, the BIE says.

Healthy Min­nesota

Min­nesota has pro­posed a spe­cial­ized expo for 2023 on the theme “Healthy Peo­ple, Healthy Planet.” It would trade on the state’s rep­u­ta­tion as a cen­ter of in­no­va­tion and ex­cel­lence in health and well­ness, the leader of the bid com­mit­tee, former Min­nesota Sec­re­tary of State Mark Ritchie, said from Paris. Min­nesota is home to world-class health care in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing the Mayo Clinic, med­i­cal de­vice mak­ers such as Medtronic, and in­sur­ers such as Unit­edHealth.

The site would be near the Mall of Amer­ica, one of the coun­try’s big­gest shop­ping cen­ters, which is lo­cated in the Min­neapo­lis sub­urb of Bloom­ing­ton. The com­mit­tee projects that it will draw around 12 mil­lion visitors, in­clud­ing nearly 220,000 in­ter­na­tional visitors, with a to­tal im­pact on the lo­cal econ­omy of $1.5 bil­lion.

The State Depart­ment is vig­or­ously lob­by­ing on Min­nesota’s be­half, a big­ger diplo­matic ef­fort than Poland’s or Ar­gentina’s, Ritchie said. It has hosted events in Washington, Paris and other cities, while its em­bassies and con­sulates around the world are pro­mot­ing the bid. It also brought for­eign am­bas­sadors to Min­nesota. Deputy Sec­re­tary of State John Sul­li­van will be in Paris to cast the U.S. vote.

The U.S. left the Bu­reau of In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tions in 2001 as con­gres­sional in­ter­est waned fol­low­ing the end of the Cold War, said Matthew Asada, the State Depart­ment’s expo pro­gram of­fi­cer. But Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed a bill in May, the “U.S. Wants to Com­pete for a World Expo Act,” to re­join and put the U.S. back in the game.

Re­vi­tal­ized Poland

The bid theme of the cen­tral Pol­ish city of Lodz for 2022 is “City Re: In­vented” and fo­cuses the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of post-in­dus­trial cities. The city’s expo web­site says the event would kick­start a se­cond wave of mod­ern­iza­tion and share Poland’s ex­per-

tise in “ur­ban re­gen­er­a­tion” with the rest of the world.

“Lodz is writ­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary story of how to suc­cess­fully com­bat a per­ma­nent so­cial and in­fras­truc­tural cri­sis,” the web­site states. The city ex­pects about 8 mil­lion visitors.

Lodz is Poland’s third-largest city, an hour away from the cap­i­tal War­saw. It be­came a thriv­ing in­dus­trial city in the 19th cen­tury but lost mo­men­tum af­ter com­mu­nist rule ended in 1989. The demise of its big tex­tile plants fu­eled un­em­ploy­ment and de­cay. But the city says it has un­der­gone a re­birth lately, in­clud­ing the restora­tion of many of the in­ner city’s richly dec­o­rated ten­e­ment houses from the late 1800s and re­vi­tal­iza­tion around the main rail­road sta­tion.

Cre­ative Ar­gentina

Buenos Aires has of­fered a 2023 expo on “Cre­ative In­dus­tries in Dig­i­tal Con­ver­gence.” If ap­proved, it would be the first expo in Latin Amer­ica un­der the aus­pices of the BIE, which be­gan op­er­a­tions in 1931. Sev­eral were held in Latin Amer­ica be­fore then, though.

“It will be a cel­e­bra­tion of hu­man creativ­ity, in which no one should be left out,” Ar­gen­tine gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Gabriela Ri­cardes said last month in a pre­sen­ta­tion to the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States.

Buenos Aires ex­pects over 6 mil­lion visitors, in­clud­ing 250,000 in­ter­na­tional tourists. “They will be able to dis­cover the lat­est in­no­va­tions in the tech­no­log­i­cal in­dus­tries, the new­est pro­pos­als from the world of creativ­ity, and mul­ti­me­dia, artis­tic, sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal con­tent from Ar­gentina and the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries,” its expo web­site says.


World lead­ers, in­clud­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (cen­ter) at­tend the open­ing cer­e­mony of the As­tana Expo 2017 ex­hi­bi­tion in As­tana, Kazak­stan, in June. Min­nesota is hop­ing to host the first expo on U.S. soil in nearly 40 years.

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