By Carol Morris
Communicating with residents is one of the most important things a city does, and in Maple Grove, the annual State of the City Address by Mayor Mark Steffenson is just one way we engage residents.
For several years prior to 2019, Maple Grove participated in a State of the City event with other member cities of the North Hennepin Area Chamber of Commerce. In late 2018, the chamber announced it was ceasing operations, and each city decided to host its own event and reshape how it connects with the community. With that, city staff pivoted and starting planning Maple Grove’s State of the City Address for February 2019.
Tailored to our community
The change provided the city the opportunity to tailor the event and our messaging to a Maple Grove audience, and highlight the newly established Maple Grove Business program and economic development initiatives. We also expanded outreach to include residents, local groups, and community organizations, as well as civic leadership that may not have known about or attended a chamber business event.
While the program messaging is still primarily business focused, there is something for everyone. Citizens enjoy being in the know with restaurant and retail happenings, and we also include updates related to public safety and parks and recreation.
The 2019 program was the traditional podium presentation with a slide show. In addition, we had a selection of city staff on stage to answer questions from the audience. Guests were provided with fun takeaways, and Maple Grove trivia questions at each table were a way to generate interaction among attendees. The event was very well-received with 165 attendees, and there was enthusiasm for the next year.
A new format
The 2020 State of the City Address had an even better turnout of 190. We decided to change things up with an interactive dialogue between the mayor and a moderator. A backdrop of pictures enhanced the information provided. While the segment was scripted, the conversation was engaging with plenty of ad-libbing that naturally drew the audience in. The event was held at the end of February, so we were fortunate to get that in before COVID-19 arrived.
For 2021, since we could not host an in-person event, we worked closely with our cable consortium, CCX Media, to successfully transfer that same conversation- style presentation between the mayor and moderator to video. While there may not have been the in-person connection with the audience, the use of various communication channels allowed us to have good outreach to and response from viewers.
Additional features of the live event
While the 2021 video presentation was successful, we hope to be able to gather in person next year. The live State of the City Address is a morning event that includes an enhanced continental breakfast at the Maple Grove Community Center. Attendance is free for the 90-minute event.
The mayor is mindful that attendees have work or other commitments to get to, so we stay on track with social time at 7:30 a.m., program start at 8, and wrap-up by 9. The event also provides the chance for guests to casually connect with the mayor, council members, and city leadership before and after the program.
Attendees can also visit display tables offering information on business initiatives, such as those offering financing opportunities and addressing workforce challenges. And, with our current relationships with the Minneapolis Regional and the I-94 West chambers of commerce, city staff and chamber of commerce representatives are on hand for one-on-one conversations.
Great team, engaging event
When it comes to organizing the State of the City Address, we have a good team to cover all aspects of the event. We have a solid presence from information technology staff, which is always a must. And the team at our Community Center is the epitome of customer service.
It is a pleasure to be a part of a growing community and to share its evolution with the Maple Grove citizens in an engaging event.
Carol Morris is a 25-year employee in the Administration Department for the City of Maple Grove. She currently serves as the communications coordinator/executive assistant to the city administrator.