I attended the October event for the planning of the Minnesota World’s Fair. Of primary conversation was an update of the bid process as the MN delegation returned from the meeting with the International Bureau of Expos located in Paris France. Conversations with the IFB had gone well and Minnesota was now on the radar for entering the bid process along other global cities.
The biggest obstacle facing our bid process and for that of other US cities currently via for various fair years, is the US withdrawal from the IFB community during the Bush administration. Continued efforts at the Federal level to rejoin the international community has not been successful at this time and currently prevents the USA from hosting a World’s Fair. Given the USA leadership role is host world renown fairs that showcased the latest technology innovation, this is a curious place to find ourselves. There seems to be a strange amount of ambiguity around the reasons for withdrawal that centers on the miss appropriation of funds during that administration, but that seems to block any effort to investigate rejoining at this time.
Only time will tell if multiple US cities can band together to lobby Washington to reverse our position. Note: The US still participates in foreign fair’s, so it seems to be more of an internal problem in Washington vs. a issue of foreign policy.
At the latest Expo2023 meeting speaker Dean Tom Fischer from the UMN design school presented on the topic of design for World’s Fair. Examples where shown of design and regional investments that had been made over history at World’s Fair. While some fair’s build temporary structures, the real opportunity allows in percent investments that transform the region with business and community assets that live on past the fair. In many cases, there are also iconic structures that are built that become internationally recognized symbols that strength the brand of the city. Some examples are the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sky Needle in Seattle, etc.
Another major consideration is the the location of the fair. In Expo2010, Shanghai’s water front was extensively remodeled and literally remade the new downtown of the city. Other design examples included maximizing the land that is used by freeways through green space capping. This allows for “new land” integrated directly into densely built areas and create a transformative effect. The Q&A part of the event quickly moved to possible locations in Minneasota. While there are site options all around the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, the more interesting idea was that there could be locations in multiple cities making it a Minnesota World’s Fair vs. a single city format.
Check out the gallery for more examples
I was invited to speak at the July 2014 Expo 2023 event. I gave an overview of the North Star Initiative that had been researching best practices for innovation centers and corporation innovation practices. Innovation center are key drivers for economic development and a potential showpiece for the World’s Fair. Their productivity comes from become a nexus of collaboration and co-opition creating opportunities through programs and serendipity that would not be possible without a focused environment and network. The core of the best models revolve around corporate consortiums. Their funding, combined with state & federal grants fuel the programs that support both start-up and corporate ventures. Events range from industry, networking, venture capital, and student focused engagements. Events and programs provide the tempo to keep the ecosystem moving and people to create plans and milestones around to make use of the events. I have been seeing corporate to corporate joint ventures and shared patents being one of the strongest drivers and attracts corporations to have offices directly on premise. That also positions them to be in the constant deal flow of new and maturing starts putting them on the pulse of opportunities and trends. Universities play a key role as well bringing expertise and educational programs. Students benefit on multiple fronts. They can get a deeper level of entrepreneurial experience, network across corporate mentors, gain access to venture capital programs, and intern directly in the centers working on start-up and corporate ventures.
Q&A that followed after the presentation focused on how we could get the center programs started. I shared a few key first steps that provide the catalyst for many regions:
- Regional Clusters must be identified to prioritize the order and focus of the initial centers. This must a balance between what the region may be known for and sectors that are emerging.
- State Government needs to publicly get behind the initiative and provide some basic funding to have skin the game. State programs can be tailored over time to strengthen center programs.
- Corporate consortium need to be engaged based on the sectors prioritized. Corporations play the leading roles in the success of centers. Usually there is the core group that opt in early and become leading board members and sponsors during the design and roll out. My tiers of corporate partnerships can be defined over time. The majority of funding comes from corporate and venture funding.
- Federal grants are also key resources for center development, but competition between the states is high. It is best to be through steps 1-3 when entering the granting process
- Universities need to play and active role. While centers can provide new revenue streams to schools through commercialization and program revenues, there needs to be a high level of volunteerism from the facaulty.
- Student programs and internships should be designed into the programs at the beginning.
- Corporations should look at centers as a new resources for employee development and lifelong learning. Employees and executives should rotate in and out playing a variety of roles including teachers, coaches, mentors, board members, program developers, industry experts, commercialization strategist, and network facilitators. Time embedded into the centers will broaden their entrepreneurial skills, increase their own networks, and put them on the pulse of innovation in the region.
- Centers are built to also collaborate with other centers both regionally and globally. International corridors should be established to bring the best ideas, talent, and investments into the region on a regular basis that is integrated into the tempo of standard programing.
- All stakeholders from government, corporate, academic, and venture community will need to play roles on boards and in center operations. There are four types of board alone including operational, governance, funding, and investment.
- Regional should have many centers with different focuses, but they can all share resources and collaborate around all aspects of operations including events and commercialization activities.
I was impressed with the energy and enthusiams around the topic. I had many senior leaders approach me after the session that lead to many follow on meetings.
Initiative like this align well with the worlds fair. Their challenge is that they need to be pursued and implemented to be fully in business to showcase the region when the fair brings the world to our door.
The April 2014 event was held at the Union Depot Station in St. Paul Minnesota. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. He explained the international bid process for securing the fair through the International Bureau of Expos (IBE) that is headquartered in Paris France. The process takes several years requiring studies and proposals of feasibility and potential impact and investment into the region. The overall goal of the expo is regional development and global integration of the host cities. These efforts are extensive and funding is required via cross community sponsors of corporations, government, NGOs, academics, and the community in general. Fund raising efforts are already underway at this time and plans for crowd sourcing campaigns are being designed to seed the early stage team putting the bid together..
(Union Station in St. Paul Minnesota)
The event also recapped recent impact of Worlds Fairs including:
2010 Shanghai: 80M+ visitors
2012 Yosef, Korea – 8M visitors
2015 Milan, Italy – Next year
2017 Astana, Kazakistan – in bid process
2020 Dubai, United Arab Emirates – in bid process
The competition for the 5 year intervals is much larger than for the off years. Usually the event on the 5 year intervals are much larger in size and length and overall investment. Several large cities in the USA have already begun the bid process and have been collaborating with Minnesota as they are farther down the process and much larger in scale. This has helped Minnesota target 2023 as an optimal year to via for in the bidding process.
The Q&A section of the event saw active dialogue across the attendees. Some insights into the discussion included:
- The USA had pulled out of the IBE due to international politics of the past. It will require the Federal Office of Secretary of State to reestablish of membership in the global expo community. The USA is already committed to participating in the 2015 Milan event, but has not rejoined as a potential host.
- The USA ran many of the largest and most successful World’s Fairs in the 20th century. It had established us as a global leader and where showcase of technology and social development. There where people in the room that had attended these events as children and talked about the impact and impress it had made on them and the historical significance those events held for the country.
- There where a few examples of smaller fairs that had financially failed and had a negative impact to the region. Those fairs where not regionally supported and had low investment overall. They also failed to have a strong plan of investments in infrastructure that would benefit the region ongoing. Lastly, global marketing and collaboration to have other countries as direct participants is also a critical success factor in driving overall attendance and international significance.
The next event is schedule for May 2015 – Get involved and stay connected at: www.Expo2023.info
See the image galleries of economic development events: