Why losing the 2027 World Expo is a good thing for taxpayers

If you enjoy massive trade shows, you, like the mayor of Bloomington, are probably disappointed that Minnesota lost its bid to host the 2027 World Expo (which went instead to Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia). But there is a good reason you shouldn’t be too disappointed with Minnesota’s loss.

Consider this. Just to get started, Minnesota lawmakers:

set aside $5 million to help local organizers pull off the 2023 expo, had Bloomington been selected as the host city. It would have gone toward planning, staffing and city costs.

But $5 million does not even begin to scratch the surface of the entire cost of putting on the Expo. In a previous article, for example, the Star Tribune reported that the expo would cost at least $1.4 billion.

Where was that money going to come from? As the Star Tribune explained,

The Expo is intended to be a partnership between the public and private sectors, with the largest source of funding meant to be ticket sales and sponsorships. Some of the buildings could be privately developed, likely with local property tax abatements.


The Bloomington Port Authority has been planning development in the proposed Expo site near the Mall of America. The port has moved to purchase or has agreements on several parcels around the mall that could be part of the 60-acre Expo campus.

Federal funding will also be in the mix, Allen said, including $50 million to help low- and middle-income countries that want to participate in the Expo.

In other words, taxpayers would have been on the hook for some of the cost of putting out the Expo.

Benefits are not guaranteed

Of course, it’s not unreasonable to imagine that such a huge gathering has the potential to be an economic boon to a host region, which would justify some form of government expenditure. In Bloomington’s case,

Organizers hoped the event would bring more than $2 billion in economic impact to Minnesota and millions of visitors, as well as spur development in vacant acres around the Mall of America

But whether the investments really pan out is an entirely different matter. The Star Tribune reported, for example, that:

The last Expo held in the U.S., in 1984 in New Orleans, faced high costs and low attendance and left more than $102 million in debt (about $295 million in today’s dollars), some of which was assumed by the state of Louisiana. The U.S. largely disengaged from the BIE after that, and only began to get involved again in the last decade.

Major international like events like the World Cup, the Olympics, and the World Expo are costly for host cities and countries. The benefits are, moreover, not always guaranteed. More often they fail to materialize or are cancelled out by the costs associated with putting on the events.

So maybe, just maybe, Minnesota taxpayers dodged a bullet here.