U.S. Takes Important Step Toward Hosting a World’s Fair in 2023

Today Congress passed the United States Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act (H.R. 534), a measure that formally authorizes the U.S. Secretary of State to take the appropriate measures to ensure that the United States rejoins the Bureau of International Expositions (the official sanctioning body of World’s Fairs or “Expos.”)

When the process of re-joining is completed next week, the United States will have taken a very important step towards hosting its First World’s Fair in over thirty years. Should the Bureau of International Expositions award the right to host the 2023 Expo to the United States it will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the theme of “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Wellness and Well Being for All.” This theme was chosen by the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee to both highlight the importance of health and medicine at a global level and to spotlight Minnesota’s unique position as one of the world’s most important centers of excellence and innovation in health, healing, medical sciences, and the promotion of wellness. Our companies, academic institutions, and research centers are among the top institutions in the world.

The process leading up to the passage of the U.S Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act (H.R. 534) was begun under the Obama Administration and will be concluded by the Trump Administration. The measure enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and at the local level.

“I was honored to have led these efforts in the House and am proud to have had the support of the entire Minnesota Delegation,” said Tom Emmer(R), Rep. from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District. “Through the passage of this bill we have the ability to join the BIE, bringing Minnesota, and the United States as a whole, one step closer to being able to highlight our innovative spirit and incredible success stories on a global stage. I am pleased our efforts have been successful and thank all the individuals, elected officials and organizations, especially the folks at the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee, who rallied together to get us closer to making this dream a reality.”

“Minnesota’s health care industry is advanced, global, and innovative – and it deserves the spotlight. Hosting the World Expo will be a remarkable event for our entire state,” said Betty McCollum(D), Rep. from Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District. “I am proud of the bipartisan effort to pass the U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act. This important legislation levels the playing field and will help Minnesota move forward with its bid to host this incredible global gathering.”

“I congratulate the many Minnesotans who have worked hard on the bid to bring a World’s Fair to our state,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. “And I thank our Congressional Delegation for advancing this important legislation. With the President’s approval, this week’s achievement takes Minnesota one step closer to hosting the United States’ first World’s Fair in three decades. Expo 2023 would bring millions of visitors to our state. The Expo would shine a global spotlight on Minnesota’s world-class medical and technology sectors, and greatly benefit our hotel and tourism industries.”

The United States has not been a member of the BIE since 2001, and it has been over thirty years since it last hosted a World’s Fair. Commonly referred to as “Expos,” World’s Fairs are the largest global events in terms of visitors and present an opportunity to showcase US regional cities and industries to a global audience. Joining the BIE is a major step in competing to host the World’s Fair in 2023 and lays the groundwork for other cities in the United States to bid on future World Fairs.

“This is an important day for all of us who have long championed the return of World’s Fairs to the United States,” said Manuel Delgado, Chairman, ExpoUSA. “Being part of the BIE means that cities across America – from Minneapolis in 2023 to San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, and many others to come – will be able to host future Expos and enjoy the tremendous cultural, educational and economic benefits of the Fair.”

“This is a big day for the people of Minnesota,” said Marilyn Carlson Nelson, co-Chair of Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee. “We still have our work cut out for us, but rejoining the BIE has brought Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota one step closer to reality. Now is the time for the business community as well as public and civic leaders to come together and make the strongest case possible to ensure that the BIE selects the Twin Cities as the site for the 2023 Expo.”

The broad-based support for the decision to rejoin the BIE underscores the importance of the World’s Fair among US lawmakers and opinion-leaders; the passage of this bill demonstrates the high level of commitment among government and civic leaders to securing the rights to host Expo 2023 in Minnesota, and is a testament to the importance of the BIE and its role in driving global awareness of issues.

“This action taken by Congress is a watershed for us,” said Mark Ritchie, President and CEO, Minnesota’s World’s Fair Bid Committee, and former Minnesota Secretary of State. “Rejoining the Bureau of International Expositions paves the way for us to compete on a level playing field with the bids from Poland and Argentina. Equally important, this also makes it possible for all other cities around the United States to bid to host an Expo in the future.”

With this important hurdle out of the way, the organizing committees behind the Minnesota bid can now fully commit significant effort and resources towards the campaign to win the support of the 168 member nations who belong to the Bureau of International Expositions.

“We are long-time, committed believers in the dream of hosting a global showcase in Minnesota to share its multi-cultural approaches to health promotion, well-being and vitality with our neighbors from around the world. Today we are one step closer to fulfilling that dream,” said Jacob Gayle, Vice President of Global Philanthropy at Medtronic and President of Medtronic Foundation. “Medtronic Foundation stands arm-in-arm with Expo 2023 Minnesota as it gets ready to make the sale of a lifetime to the BIE in June, and make our collective dream a reality. We look forward to helping Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota share with the world the story of Minnesota and its robust medical technology, healthcare, public health and wellness sectors.”

Joining the BIE sets the stage not only for Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota, but for many future World’s Fairs in the United States. Houston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have all expressed interest in hosting future World’s Fairs – but until now, lack of membership in the BIE was a major obstacle.

World’s Fairs are the world’s largest events measured by attendance and generate digital impressions in the billions on a global scale. An expected twelve million visitors will attend the three-month Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota “Specialized Expo” focusing on the issues of health and wellness.

The overall national economic impact of Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota is estimated to be over USD $4 Billion. As per the United States Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act (H.R. 534), funding for all World’s Fair projects in the US must come from private sources. Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota is expected to generate over 40,000 jobs across the state in support of the event.

Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota will place the Twin Cities region, and its seven county population of 3.5 million, on a global stage, introducing Minnesota to the world. The effort to join the BIE was led by the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee, headed by co-Chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson, with significant leadership and support from Minnesota Lawmakers from both parties, former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, CEO of the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee, the communications firm Tunheim, HGA Architectural Firm, and Dorsey Law.

The planned location of Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota is in a parcel of land adjacent to the University of Minnesota’s main Minneapolis campus. As per the BIE, all Specialized World’s Fair grounds are contained within a roughly 60-acre plot.

Minnesota has a strong connection to the health, wellness, nutrition and medical sciences industries. Nine Fortune 500 companies that operate in the health, nutrition and food, medical technology and wellness sectors are headquartered in Minnesota. In addition to these large publicly-held companies, Cargill, the nutritional giant and the world’s largest privately-held company, is headquartered in the Twin Cities. Minnesota employs over 250,000 workers in the health care sector alone.

About World’s Fairs (“Expos”)

The first “World Fair” was held in London in 1851 and was called the “The Great Exhibition.” Since the 1928 Convention Relating to International Exhibitions came into force, the Bureau International des Expositions (or “BIE”; English: Bureau of International Exhibitions) has served as the official international sanctioning body for all World’s Fairs, also known as “Expos.” There are two primary types of BIE-sanctioned Expos:

  • Universal Expos held every five years (The last universal Expo was held in in Milan in 2015 and attracted more than 23 million visitors; Dubai is slated to host the 2020 Universal World’s Fair.)
  • Falling on the calendar in between Universal Fairs, are the BIE-sanctioned “Specialized Fairs,” which typically have a central theme or topic. Expo Astana 2017 (Kazakhstan) will kick off later this year and is promoting the theme of “Future Energy”. The next Specialized Expo has three competing bids: US/Minnesota (“Healthy People, Healthy Planet”), Poland/Lodz (“City Reinvented”), and Argentina/Buenos Aires (“Science, Innovation, Art and Creativity”)

The United States had not been an official member of the BIE since 2001. The last World’s Fair held in the United States was in 1984.