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Political conventions: Are they worth it?

 
Political conventions: Are they worth it?
Posted June 18th, 2014 @ 3:31pm by WTVN Newsroom

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Columbus and Cleveland are still in the running to host a political convention in 2016. Republicans and Democrats are eying Cleveland and while the GOP passed on Columbus, Democrats are still considering it.

Hosting an event the size of a political convention isn't cheap. It takes millions of dollars to pull off. So, is it worth the investment?

"Would we do it again, do we think it is worthwhile? The answer is yes all the way across the board," said Ken Jones, who headed the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa.

He said the biggest challenge is money. The host city needs to be able to raise enough to pay for not only pulling off the event, but making a big impact on those attending it. He says the goal is to make such an impact on the delegates and members of the media that they'll want to return with their families for vacation to spend even more money in the local economy.

"We're talking about exposure that we've never seen. It was unprecedented for us the amount of coverage that we received," said Laura White with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. 

Being in every newspaper and on every news outlet is something you can't put a price tag on, said White. A study completed after the 2012 Democratic National Convention called the event the single largest event in the city's history. It found that the local economy benefited to the tune of $163.6 million.

It was a similar story in Tampa where the GOP convention pumped a total of $404.3 million into the economy. That included $214 million directly from visitors to the convention. Taxable sales increased by $363.4 million, according to a study.

Jones says political conventions bring 15,000 credentialed members of the media to town. An average Super Bowl has about 4,000. Only the Summer Olympics draws more.

One of the things any host city will have to deal with is the disruption to business as usual. Major party political conventions are considered high-target for terrorists. That means security is coordinated by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with the U.S. Secret Service taking the lead.

"Security is going to be tight. There's going to be a lot of it and there's not much you can do about it," Jones said, suggesting the local host committee do a good job of communicating that with local businesses and people who work in the area.

Both cities that hosted the 2012 conventions said many downtown workers opted to work from home or at another remote location.

Jones says hosting one of these events is huge for the cities that are picked.

"If you can do a presidential convention and do it well, you can host anything," he said.

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

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