As Mayor, I travel on behalf of Minneapolis. I travel to build relationships, raise Minneapolis’ profile nationally and internationally, and to bring resources home for our city and our people. Right now in America cities are places where good, progressive, nimble work is happening on crucial issues like racial equity and climate change. Leaders like President Obama and Pope Francis are turning to mayors as partners to advance agendas they cannot execute at the national or international level. Foundations and other funders are eager to invest in cities because they see progress on their priorities. This has created unprecedented opportunities for mayors and our cities, and I have traveled to take advantage of those opportunities.
And it has worked. As a result of my travel I can already point to over $7.2 million of new investment in the city and our inclusion in several programs that will help us keep Minneapolis moving forward. We are receiving federal grants to help remove lead from our homes, helping our low-income citizens get access to better food, and equipping our police with body cameras. We are receiving a $2.7 million grant that will help ensure our city is delivering services equitably. We are one of six cities participating in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. We have been designated by the White House as Climate Action Champions. We are participating in the TechHire initiative to help our people, especially women and people of color, get training that will connect them higher-paying jobs in the technology sector. We received a Promise Zone designation in North Minneapolis, which includes preference points for federal grants that affect the Zone.
Of course, the work of many people goes into securing new investments in the City. I am not the only leader building relationships and doing strong work. There are many factors at play. However, as the Mayor, I am the Chief Ambassador for Minneapolis. My travel, the meetings I have on behalf of the City, and the relationships I build are key factors to our success.
Here’s an illustration of how this works:
- In January of 2014, I went to the US Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, DC. There, I met with members of President Obama’s cabinet and his intergovernmental staff.
- When it came time for the President to designate cities as Climate Action Champs, the White House knew how they had a partner in the Mayor’s office. They knew how committed Minneapolis is to a sustainable future and a healthy climate.
- Because Minneapolis won that designation, I came to the attention of the Vatican. The Pope was hosting a conference in Rome on climate change and human trafficking and was selecting 60 mayors worldwide – only 9 from the US and only one from the Midwest – to attend.
- At that conference, I built a network of other mayors and organizations all around the world with which I can share best practices and have negotiated shared goals. I met representatives from major foundations and non-profits who now know me and the work we are doing Minneapolis.
- When I returned to the US Conference of Mayors a few weeks ago, I was able to have one-on-one meetings with one of those foundations, which is now considering a significant investment in our work on climate issues.
When I travel, I am often working twelve hours or more each day. When I return, I often step off of an airplane directly into meetings back here at City Hall. I have chosen to take time away from my family and do these things because part of my job is bringing resources and recognition to the best city on earth.
Much of my travel has been paid for by others. Costs have been covered by people who asked me to speak at conferences, and by foundations and organizations who have offered fellowships for skill-building and who want mayors to attend their events.
Last fall, I made a decision to focus less on travel in 2016. Over the last two years I have established invaluable relationships and brought home the bacon. Now is the time to make sure the projects we have built and those resources coming back home have the most positive possible impact on the lives of Minneapolitans and the profile of our city.
I will still travel, of course. I remain the Chief Ambassador. I have obligations to fulfill on behalf of the city as the recipient of various grants, programs, and technical assistance. And where there are strong opportunities for important partnerships or to bring our federal tax dollars back home, I will take them. But it will be less.
So here are the stats so far:
Since being sworn is as Mayor on January 2nd, 2014, I have spent 58 full weekdays and fifteen half days traveling on behalf of the City of Minneapolis. That means nearly $110,000 returning to Minneapolis for each full day I have traveled over the last two years.
I am proud of the good work I’ve done for Minneapolis through my travel, and I look forward to reaping even more of the benefits of that work moving forward.