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An open call for change. Change where it counts, in brands.

Don’t read this if you have a closed mind and can’t imagine a different future beyond tomorrow. You know who you are, this will make you cringe and we don’t need that on our conscience.

For the remaining, take a minute to consider that a city government and a business are fairly similar. They have income, expenses and they provide services to a specific audience. They employ people and should be governed by the same natural economics that exist for all organizations (for profit, government or not-for-profit).

Now consider the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) as two similar organizations. They have a fair amount of duplication, providing similar services, having similar roles, similar physical proximity, similar missions, etc. Yet, to this day they are separate operating organizations.

Yes. The suggestion here is a merger of cities and a merger of brands. Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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If you need examples, look to Budapest (Buda and Pest) and New York merging with Brooklyn. If you’re wondering why there are no other modern examples, welcome to my world of wonderment.

Now, before your head starts to move back and forth, this doesn’t mean we eliminate half the jobs. Though if you’ve been through a merger, there are efficiencies to be found in duplicate roles. It does mean someone has to figure out the brand strategy behind two merged brands. You could treat it like the two are still separate, but run them from one back office, creating the efficiencies of one government while still having two cities. Look to Byerly’s and Lunds as a great example of how this could be accomplished. Or merge them in under an existing brand name (Twin Cities) would also be a good option. The last two options would be a new name entirely, which would be an interesting challenge if we involved voters in the naming decision. Lastly some smerging of the two names (Minnstpauleapolis) which would certainly not be our suggestion.

Whatever the strategy, the savings would be tremendous. This isn’t savings to the organization, but rather savings to each citizen of these two great cities. If they were two businesses a merger would have occurred long ago.

 —Aaron Keller, Capsule

  • Dan Kelly

    Aaron,
    A thought provoking post. While I cannot dispute any of your practical reasons in support of a merger, there are, I think, very different cultural vibes to each city. My fear is that the cities would not merge well, like peanut butter and jelly, but poorly, like beer and chardonnay (to modify an image from Garrison Keillor).
    And to play the Devil’s Advocate for a moment, why stop at St. Paul and Minneapolis? Why not merge all of the contiguous metropolitan suburbs?

  • I think Dan’s got a very good point here. Why stop with the two cities? Why not merge Bloomington (almost as big in many aspects, as Minneapolis) and then why not Edina and why not [pick another contiguous suburb]?
    Funny, but I had this exact same conversation two days ago with a team that worked on PR for the RNC convention in 2008. Their task: Represent Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington as ONE METRO. Once the convention left town, it was back to petty politics and fiefdoms as usual.
    My sense is, you can’t ask for the merger to happen. It can’t be requested, or voted on. It should simply be done–a coup, of sorts. Perhaps by a new entity (Twin Cities, Inc.?) or better yet, big media, could make it so.
    Plenty of value here, as you suggest, Aaron. But I suspect we’d have to go over the top with a new name for the combined metropolis. Totally start from scratch.
    But, why not? At least it would be designed well here. ;)

  • John Nelson

    Aaron’s question above presents an interesting subject that is certainly worthy of further exploration and discussion. However, I have to agree that these two cities have established separate “vibes” or cultures that are all their own.
    Furthermore, those familiar with often shaky history that has been shared by these two city governments over time may question if the ability to work together as one would even be possible. For example, history tells us there is bad blood between the two police departments that dates way back to the harboring of gangsters in the 1930s.
    Today, Minneapolis has become established as a more modern city in terms of architecture, culture, and commerce. Interestingly, this was not always the case historically. In Minnesota’s early history St. Paul was often in the business of marketing the grains, and textiles that Minneapolis manufacturing produced. However, in the later part of the 20th century Minneapolis took on a greater role in the areas of marketing and commerce. Today, Minneapolis gets the Twins’ Stadium because they have the ability to raise the money needed to bid for it (unlike St. Paul).
    I’m a St. Paul resident and I’m proud of my identity as someone who lives in St. Paul and NOT in Minneapolis. When I explain the difference to those unfamiliar with the area, I tell them that St. Paul has pubs, and Minneapolis has clubs. For me, St. Paul has a much more blue-collar, down to earth feeling when compared to many areas of Minneapolis. It also seems to have maintained much more of its history.
    Whatever your preference may be, Minneapolis or St. Paul, I have to seriously question if these two cities could ever share the same brand identity. Truth be told, I highly doubt that the citizens of these fine cities would ever want to.
    John Nelson, M.A.

  • As someone who’s lived in Minneapolis and worked for the City of Saint Paul (they’d be proud of me for not abbreviating the name of Minnesota’s capital city), I agree with the sentiment that merging the two might be a tough sell.
    That said, the number of consolidated governments that have occurred across the country might surprise one. They have often been a consolidation of city and county (a number with voter approval) so the notion of merging Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and other suburbs isn’t so far off. There can be significant cost savings and, in our current economic climate, the idea might gain some traction.
    The rest of America wouldn’t care if Minneapolis and Saint Paul became one entity but if you help run or live in either city, good luck.
    Troy Matson, Focused Connections, Inc.

  • John Harden

    Does anyone remember the great long-ago merger of two neighboring Canadian (eh?) cities Port Arthur and Fort William into Thunder Bay? In Chicago, Mayor Daley would simply have all the signs changed overnight – much easier than when he had Meigs Field dug up overnight. Or “leased” the city’s assets for 100 years.
    If Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx can operate under the New York brand, with all their rich cultural differences, why not us? With all the retro rage, how about a return to the name Pigs Eye!?
    John Harden

  • Daniel Clinton-McCausland

    I have been talking to my friends about this very issue lately. However, I thought of something slightly. What if, we combined into one city but had two boroughs. I know that this idea could be criticize for basically repackaging the current situation, but thing would be municipal between the two boroughs. (We could play copycat to New York)
    As John stated, the Boroughs of New York (I am not obsessed, it is just a good example) used to be divided along ethnic lines. The culture of Manhattan was very much different than that of Queens. I’m not saying it should be done, but the redundancies are ameliorated and many other good things can come from a larger technical city.
    I am ranting, but, combining Minneapolis and Saint Paul would mean a city of around 680,000 –if it happened this year– which looks a lot more significant than 390,000 and 289,000 people. I am proud to live in St. Paul, but not too proud to see that this is a potentially positive idea.
    Daniel Clinton-McCausland