Final Four ‘diverse spending’ called a model for future events

Photo by Uzoma Obasi The Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee: (front l-r) Aliyah Wilson, Kate Mortenson, Jack Bernstein, Debbie Estes, Chelsey Stoa, Helena Way, Annabelle Juin; (back l-r) Jafranee Johnson-Holmes, Cydni Bickerstaff, Ivan Cardona, Karina Curbelo, Cordell Smith, Reece Anderson, Calvin Weimerskirch, Alexy Rudolph, Sheila Her, Maggie Habashy

The Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee (MLOC) permanently closed its offices at the end of June after nearly three years of operation. The nonprofit organization was formed to run the 2019 Men’s Final Four in Minneapolis last spring shortly after the city won the hosting rights in 2014 and opened MLOC’s downtown offices in January 2017.

Having pledged that diversity and inclusion was an MLOC top priority, the committee’s final “Inclusion Spending Report” was released in May, broken down into two categories:

Discretionary spending: Over $3 million ($3,104,145) was spent on MLOC personnel, vendors, contractors or other service providers. Over $2.9 million was “diverse spending,” of which 20 percent went to people of color-owned businesses. Thirty of the 40 minority-owned businesses and vendors were Black-owned.

Restricted spending: Over $4 million ($4,585,783) was spent on office rent, equipment and utilities (10 percent), travel, hotel and hospitality (nine percent), insurance and legal (three percent), economic impact data and other studies (two percent) and postage and printing (one percent). Bid-required venues and governmental services accounted for the remaining 75 percent of this spending.

Abundant Office Solutions was among 100 MLOC discretionary spending vendors. “They [the MLOC] got office supplies from me in preparation for the Final Four,” Office Solutions President Mark Harris told the MSR.

Bush Foundation Community Network Vice President Duchesne Drew pointed out that the MLOC’s efforts “made a meaningful difference in how dollars got spent and in which communities benefited from the event.”     

The MLOC staff also was diverse: 11 of 12 were persons of color, including two top officials — Events Operations Vice President Cyndi Bickerstaff and Fan Jam Manager Alexy Rudolph. A 31-member all-volunteer Impact Advisory Council also was formed to help MLOC achieve its inclusion and diversity objectives.

“I was really pleased with the job the Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee did to make the 2019 Final Four tournament an inclusive event,” Drew continued. He and University of St. Thomas Career Development and Employee Relations Director Linda Sloan were council co-chairs.

“Prior to the formation of the council, I met with [MLOC president] Kate Mortenson, and she said at that time that she wanted to focus on inclusion, youth and excellence,” Sloan recalled. “Kate was very deliberate in pulling together a council of individuals from various backgrounds and communities who could provide input and connections to diverse resources.”

Councilmember Lisa Tabor of Culture Brokers added, “I think Kate and staff exceeded our objectives for inclusion.”

“The efforts not only met but exceeded my expectations,” reiterated another council member, Metropolitan Council Small Business Programs Supervisor Elaine Ogilvie.

“They worked extremely hard and developed very strong strategies,” Meet Minneapolis Executive Director Melvin Tennant said of the council. He also was an MLOC board member actively involved since 2014 in the Final Four bidding process. 

Tennant also praised the MLOC’s “Future Stars” internship program. “It gave a number of diverse young people [the opportunity] to elevate their portfolio and get into sports marketing. It was very successful.”

The MLOC also released the “Final Four Bottom Line” economic impact report, prepared by Pennsylvania-based Rockport Analytics. It estimated $141.3 million in total economic impact as a result of hosting the event, which included “a significant economic boost” to businesses that directly served Final Four visitors or hosted related events. The report added that 91,000 visitors spent over $115 million on hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and transportation during the eight-day event in late March and early April.

“This is a direct result of intentional actions that I would like to see modeled and implemented in the future,” Ogilvie said.

“It tells a good story,” Tennant said of the MLOC report, “and provides a good strategy on future events we’re hosting.” 

Asked if the MLOC’s diversity and inclusion efforts can serve as a blueprint for future large-scale events hosted in the Twin Cities, Drew replied, “We don’t need to wait for a tournament to come to the Twin Cities for leaders who direct dollars and care about inclusion to build diverse networks to source talent.”

“I prefer more consistency with any of the [planning] committees that exist or whoever put on events here or in the area” to ensure that local small businesses are included, Harris said. 

“I believe that the MLOC developed an excellent model for ensuring that all people can participate in large-scale events, not just as attendees but also as partners and providers,” Sloan concluded. “Inclusion can be successful.”

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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