Two of Minnesota's cities owe a lot to Terry Mattson. His 28-year tenure at Visit Duluth helped catapult tourism in “The Zenith City” from an $80 million to $800 million industry. Now, as president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul and the RiverCentre Authority, he’s on track to make a similar impact for the capital city.
“I always had an interest and enthusiasm for marketing, sales, advertising and public relations,” says Mattson, who majored in business administration and journalism as an undergrad at the University of WisconsinSuperior. Only a year after graduation, he began what would become an epic tenure at Visit Duluth. During his time there, he created the Tall Ships festival, which draws over 250,000 attendees from the U.S. and Canada. He also founded major events like the AMSOIL Duluth National Snocross, a long-standing Thanksgiving weekend tradition. “
We really accomplished an amazing transformation of Duluth’s brand from a Rust Belt city into a top Midwest destination over that quarter of a century,” he says. “It’s one of America’s great success stories.”
In search of a new challenge, Mattson moved to St. Paul’s Highland neighborhood and signed on as president and CEO of Visit Saint Paul in 2014. In the two years since, the city has already seen incremental economic impact, higher productivity, and an increase on return on investment. Plus, 2015 was the best year on record for the RiverCentre, surpassing the 2008 Republican National Convention. “By any measure, 2015 is the new high water mark for not only the convention center, but St. Paul travel and tourism activity,” he says. Mattson boosted marketing for the city through social media efforts, including the creation of the hashtag #MyStPaul. He also created Insider’s Guide, the first new publication exclusive to St. Paul in 10 years.
“St. Paul has a unique story to sell,” he says. “It’s a signature city. There’s a genuineness to its architecture, its neighborhoods and its people.”
Mattson is dedicated to developing the destination further at sites like Roy Wilkins Auditorium and the Xcel Energy Center.
He attributes his achievements thus far to working with knowledgeable and skillful teams, strong relationships, and his passion and enthusiasm for the Midwest. “St. Paul is one of those cities that has a European, almost medieval, feel, and all the modern amenities,” he says. “There’s so much potential. We definitely want to enhance the image and popularity of St. Paul and that will invariably increase tourism.”
When he’s not working to improve St. Paul’s visibility and appeal, he enjoys mountain biking and motorized recreation. But his dedication to his job is steadfast. “I really believe in what tourism, meetings, conventions and travel can do for a community,” he says. “We do this for the people who live here. It helps the bottom line of any community.”