Tampa Bay, a haven of waterfront nightlife, cultural centers, pristine natural settings and nearly 100 golf courses, is getting ready to cash in on the crowning of Mitt Romney as the Republicans’ presidential nominee.
With thousands of delegates, politicians, constituents and members of the media headed its way, Tampa will bask in a national spotlight for the better part of a week and experience a sudden surge in its economy.
The host city for the 2012 Republican National Convention is looking forward to an estimated$153.56 million boost in its economy, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle, a Tampa-based research team. Tampa officials say the benefits of hosting the four-day convention beginning next Monday will be long lasting.
“I think when we look back 10 years, 20 years from now, they will say this is where Tampa turned the corner, we had our introduction to the world stage and we danced like we never danced before,” Tampa Bay Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a Tampa Business Journal panel.
Tampa’s projected economic boost to its hotels, restaurants, recreational areas and metropolitan area businesses is similar to what Minneapolis/St. Paul experienced four years ago when it hosted the 2008 Republican National Convention. According to a report by the Minneapolis/St. Paul 2008 Host Committee, the city had roughly 50,000 visitors, the same number that Tampa estimates it will accommodate next week, and benefited from an infusion of $168 million in direct and indirect spending.
But the report points out that host committees’ estimates sometimes don’t reflect economic losses from displaced workers or local residents fleeing town during the events. Some industries have even reported loss of business during the conventions. In 2004, Broadway theaters reported that attendance dropped 20 percent during the Republican National Convention in New York, according to Jones Lang LaSalle .
But there are other financial benefits to hosting a convention besides all the money that the host committee and visitors spend.
"There are many intangibles that will continue to benefit us like the thousands of stories that are circulating about the amazing attributes of our cities," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a written statement. Kristen Montag, communications manager for Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau, said hosting a national convention has increased the city’s opportunity to hold other large events. “It provides great visibility for the area. It definitely puts your name out there in front of the national and even global viewers watching at home,” Montag said.
Moreover, the host cities often benefit from lasting inprovements related to the conventions. “For us as a community, this is not just a one-time event,” said Tampa Mayor Buckhorn. He said preparations for the GOP convention produced many legacy projects including landscaping, enhanced telecommunications systems, and a number of other infrastructure projects the community has been working on to gear up for the convention.
Companies like AT&T are investing millions in Tampa, with the hopes of increasing business around the area after the party leaves town. Rich Guidotti, vice president and general manager of AT&T, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that his company plans to spend more than $20 million in Tampa on expanded WiFi coverage and installation of 1,500 miles in new cell sites.
“We’ve redirected a lot of capital dollars that were going other places to make sure that Tampa has the best wireless connectivity that we can possibly provide to those coming to the meeting at the end of the month, but more importantly the folks who are going to be here afterward,” Guidotti said.
Coca-Cola is also using the convention as a platform to implement a long-term project in Tampa -- a $400,000 recycling program.
Buckhorn told the panel that the convention wasn’t just for the Republican Party. “I think this will be the catalyst for this community realizing its potential and taking its turn on the international stage, because this is truly our coming out party.”