Our economy is still in tough shape and working families are still struggling to get ahead. That’s why we’re working hard with a wide variety of partners to make the most of our city’s and region’s assets and constantly look for ways to grow jobs. One of the promising areas for doing this is the hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, bars, cabs and the like.
Minneapolis is the premier host city in the upper Midwest. Not only do we easily and happily accommodate 200,000 people a day from outside Minneapolis who come downtown to work, we host 18,000,000 visitors a year who come here for entertainment, business, recreation and travel.
And those 18,000,000 visitors mean big bucks and good jobs for people who live here. The Minneapolis Convention Center alone is responsible for bringing in around a quarter-billion dollars’ worth of new business every year, and our hospitality industry overall generates $1 billion in payroll every year. (Yes, I said “billion.”) Hospitality puts more than 27,000 people a year to work in Minneapolis, more than in manufacturing and government combined — and better yet is the fact that many of these jobs are good union jobs. (None of these figures includes the jobs and income generated by our unparalleled arts and entertainment industry.)
With as many assets as we already have to attract people here, we’re doubling down on our efforts to grow our hospitality industry. A couple weeks ago, Meet Minneapolis — the main organization that promotes tourism and convention business, which the City helps fund — unveiled a new tourist brand for Minneapolis called “City by Nature.” The double meaning is apparent: we’re a city surrounded by nature —beautiful lakes, world-class parks and green spaces, the Mississippi river — and we’re a city that by our nature is cosmopolitan, diverse and welcoming of everyone, whether from around the state, the country or the globe. I think this new brand captures our essence and fits our moment just right.
But the goal of “City by Nature” isn’t to make us feel good about Minneapolis: the goal of “City by Nature” is to increase the number of return visitors to our city by 300,000 a year and to add 500 more hospitality jobs a year. It’s an ambitious goal, but in this economy, we have to aim high.
Growing the hospitality industry also creates jobs for people in communities who have been hit particularly hard in this economy, like young people, immigrants and people of color, who make up much of our hospitality workforce. It’s one way we can eliminate the shameful gaps in employment in our region between whites and people of color, especially African Americans. I’ve laid out a path for doing so called “One Minneapolis” and we’re working closely with the Minneapolis Foundation and other partners to put it in place. The future of our region depends on our economy’s working equally for everyone.
The state of our economy, with its many inequities, is far too big for one layer of government to fix on its own, but at the City of Minneapolis, by working closely with our partners, we’ve been having success in growing jobs despite the recession: our unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and region continues to recover faster than most other metropolitan areas. That’s encouraging, but it’s not enough. Growing jobs is our job, and we’re going to keep at it.