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How Much Did The Republican Convention Benefit Cleveland? Two Studies Disagree

Mark Urycki
Police at the newly refurbished Public Square during the RNC.

Spending on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year amounted to $68 million, according to a study by Cleveland State University. Or $110 million, according to the company Tourism Economics.

The head of the Cleveland Host Committee, David Gilbert, likes the higher report because he can compare it to similar studies by Tourism Economics of other conventions.

That study of the RNC impact says 48,000 visitors came to town. But some money spent in the region was not included, such as money spent by AT&T to build out its telephone infrastructure for the convention.

Gilbert says the money is a nice benefit, but there were also two long term benefits to Cleveland.

"One being a major accellerant for major projects like Public Square, the Hilton Hotel, [Hopkins] airport renovations, innerbelt bridge, all which happened,” he says.

Another advantage was the impact of 15,000 journalists writing some 3,000 stories about the city.

"The stories they wrote about Cleveland otherwise would take us maybe decades to get collectively, very safe to say,” Gilbert says. “The other important group was incredible influencers – people whose policy decisions and checkbooks saw Cleveland for the first time."

Surveys showed an mostly positive response from visitors, and organizers said the convention that nominated President Trump went smoothly and was free of chaos.

Another addition, Gilbert says, was a new pride in local people.

“So much of what has held our community back for decades is the outside perception of Cleveland and our own local perception of Cleveland,” he says. “Whether they choose to go college here or not, whether they choose to move here or not, whether they choose to take a job, whether they choose to invest in a company here.” 

Some local businesses did lose money during the convention week, as local people afraid of the crowds or potential violence stayed away. The police barricades also walled off a large area of downtown. 

Gilbert referred to those liabilities as "displacement effects," but said they were taken into account in the overall tallies.

The DNC in Philadelphia tallied more direct spending – $132 million – but the Democrats had more delegates and 6,000 more visitors.