Cleveland officials expect the 2016 GOP convention to inject upwards of $200 million into the local economy, something the week-long events have easily done in other cities.
In 2012, Tampa Bay hosted the Republican National Convention, which about 50,000 people attended. After the event, the host committee commissioned an economic study from the University of Tampa. It showed the convention’s direct impact came to $214 million, with much of the bounty going to businesses like hotels, the airport, florists and seafood suppliers.
Security zones can be a problem for some
It also showed the event hurt many bars and restaurants outside the convention’s security zone. One of those was Zudar’s Restaurant and Catering. Owner Eric Weinstein says the big problem was the closure of streets and bridges.
“It had a dramatic impact on the ability of people to maneuver the area, so basically it shut us down. And then, because of the publicity surrounding the event and the closures and the security measures, many of the local residents completely stayed away. And so what would have been even our regular business was dramatically affected to the negative.”
The economic impact study showed businesses like Zudars that suffered from convention-related hassles lost a total of about $2.3 million. Weinstein says before the event was completely planned out, the host committee urged Tampa businesses to make bids to the Republican National Committee for services like catering. He says he did not have enough information to make his decision.
“Because our restaurant is walking distance to the convention center, we did not bid on any of the catering because we were concerned we would be so busy with the restaurant business we wouldn't be able to do both. Obviously that was a strategic error.
"And unfortunately, we had to make that decision prior to the release of the security information. So, had we been aware at the time that the bridges would be closed and other security measures in place, we would have done the exact opposite and probably closed the restaurant for that length of time and done nothing but cater.”
Details about the security zone were released about a week before the event.
But business inside security zones can be profitable for others
About 580 miles north of Tampa, Charlotte, N.C., hosted 2012’s Democratic National Convention. Tammy Winchester manages Rooster’s, an upscale southern-style restaurant just a block away from the convention site, well inside the security parameter. She says her business picked up as soon as conventioneers began arriving.
“Throughout the entire week, we actually opened for an early lunch, and stayed open all the way through 2 a.m., and basically it was a revolving door. So if you’re a restaurant and you’re within the security zone, plan on being busy. Literally, I got 15 hours of sleep in five days.”
Cleveland tries to anticipate issues that could hinder business
The Democratic convention had $91 million in direct economic impact in Charlotte, according to a city-funded study conducted after the event. The study also shows adversely affected businesses lost a total of more than $7 million because local residents and tourists stayed away.
These issues are on the minds of Cleveland’s RNC host committee. After the formal announcement that Cleveland had been awarded the 2016 convention, committee member Joe Marinucci said business interests are on the group’s agenda.
“What we’ll do is essentially anticipate some of those logistical challenges and work with everyone to mitigate them. And by doing that, I think that from a business perspective we maximize the economic impact to the region, but in particular to downtown because most of the activity is going to be center here in downtown Cleveland.”
A host city's best friend: Positive convention media exposure
Marinucci says the Inner Belt bridge project will be finished by 2016, making it easier for the 125,000 commuters to get in and out of the city. And host cities do enjoy some long-term benefits. Millions of dollars in security upgrades are left behind, including cameras and advanced communication equipment -- all paid for with federal dollars.
But, most officials in host cities say the biggest payoff is spending a week in the world’s media spotlight. Officials in Tampa credit their 2012 exposure for helping attract last spring’s Indian Film Awards, Bollywood’s version of the Oscars. That four-day event is watched by an estimated 800 million people worldwide.