Time to roll out the red carpet in Minnesota

In less than 100 days Minneapolis-St. Paul will host the 2008 Republican National Convention, and it is time to roll out the red carpet — Minnesota style.

From Post-it Notes to pacemakers, we are a community of innovators, ideas and ingenuity. We have an amazing story to tell and more than 45,000 visitors that are ready to listen.

While the convention itself will focus attention on the Republican presidential nominee, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight all that is great about Minneapolis-St. Paul and the surrounding areas.

It has been 116 years since we have hosted a national political convention. Now, more than ever, we need to come together regardless of political party affiliation to put on a show that is second to none. It’s time to showcase our vibrant community; our innovative businesses including 19 Fortune 500 companies; our theater and arts offerings that rival New York’s; our amazing natural resources with more shoreline than Hawaii, Florida and California combined and more than 22 lakes within the metro area; and our shopping and dining that are among the best in the country.

With the eyes of the nation and the world upon us, we have a tremendous opportunity to create thousands of ambassadors who can spread the message of what we have to offer.

Each and every one of the expected 45,000 visitors has the potential to return to their home states and tout all that is great about Minnesota. Studies have shown that people who come here want to come back. These individuals have the capability to send future opportunities our way in the form of new businesses and employees, events, college students, and more.

This area will receive priceless media attention that is second only to that of hosting the Olympic Games. Hundreds of media outlets including the national networks have already visited Minneapolis and St. Paul to plan their convention coverage, and many are staking out locations for live interviews and broadcasts. In addition, thousands of media outlets will be traveling with each of the 55 delegations coming to town, and news organizations from around the globe are expected to attend.

This is not the time for us to sit on the sidelines. More than 10,000 volunteers are needed to perform key duties at convention-related events and venues like CivicFest: A Very Minnesota Celebration. CivicFest, which will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center from Aug. 29–Sept. 4, will be a 300,000-square-foot event featuring more than 35 world-class exhibits, including a replica of the Oval Office, Air Force One, a model White House, exhibits dedicated to Minnesota business and innovation, and more. About 1,000 volunteers are needed for the event.

Residents also will have the opportunity to participate in numerous other activities that include spark24, which will showcase Minneapolis-St. Paul’s acclaimed arts community during 24 hours of nonstop unexpected performances and entertainment throughout downtown Minneapolis. In addition, Hail to the Chief, an exhibit presented by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, will feature paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and decorative arts representing our country’s presidencies from George Washington to George W. Bush.

Our journey began two years ago with our quest to attract a national political convention.  It’s not often that a civics lesson of this magnitude lands on your doorstep. There is no better time to roll out the welcome mat.