Officially nominating your party's presidential nominee isn't a small affair. The 2012 Republican National Convention recently adjourned in Tampa, Florida. after tropical storm Isaac threatened to derail the event. The event brought 2,286 delegates and 2,125 additional alternate delegates from the 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. In addition, more than 15,000 members of the media converged on Tampa, Fla. and made it the second-largest media gathering this year behind the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Technology allowed the event to be streamed live over the Internet creating what organizers called a "convention without walls." An event of this size has a high price tag, but who picks up the tab? Surprisingly, most of the bills were sent to Tampa's municipal government.
Tampa, Fla. mayor Bob Buckhorn called the convention the city's "coming out party." He believes that spending roughly $20 million to host the convention made a big impression on the more than 50,000 visitors and that it was well worth the cost. He hopes that the visitors take a second look at Tampa as a place to build a business. In addition, he believes that the local economy will get a major boost. Before the convention, he said that visitors would pour around $150 million into local businesses.
However, the cost goes far beyond the $20 million to host the convention. Along with the money spent for security, the city of Tampa government, using local funds along with a $50 million federal grant, gave the city a major makeover. Old infrastructure was torn down, bridges were lit up with colored LED lights, $2.7 million was spent on beautification and a major makeover to the city's international airport was completed.
Was It Worth the Cost?
Tampa, like other cities, has a looming budget deficit that resulted in widespread layoffs that were needed to get the city's finances under control. This has made some people question whether the city could afford such a large event in times of hardship.
A sandwich shop near the convention center reported that only two customers visited for lunch on one of the convention days, and another restaurant owner speaking to reporters said that business was significantly lower than average during the convention. Reports like these are widespread throughout the media. Although some business owners blame tropical storm Isaac for keeping people out of the Tampa area longer than expected, some have seen other problems. The sub shop that saw only two customers could only be reached by asking a police officer to open a security wall, and other security measures like the multiple road closures left some businesses inaccessible to customers during the convention.
Other business owners reported that some events were organized in a way that kept convention goers confined instead of encouraging them to visit local businesses throughout Tampa and the surrounding communities. Philip Porter, an economics professor who studies the economic impact of major events, called the $150 to $200 million estimate, "absurd." He believes that if 50,000 came to Tampa for the convention and purchased food, T-shirts and other small items, that they wouldn't have spent $200 million.
The Bottom Line
The figures are not yet available for the 2012 convention, but if the 2008 Republican National Convention that took place in Minneapolis/St. Paul is used as a guide, Tampa, Fla. should expect to see $150 to $175 million worth of local economic benefit. According to reports, the Minneapolis/St. Paul convention brought roughly $168 million in direct and indirect spending. That's a decent return for hosting a party.