RNC planner says convention in Tampa was a success

11/15/12 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:


August’s Republican National Convention in Tampa was criticized by activists for its overwhelming police presence and militarized feel. But organizers say the convention was a triumph for the Tampa Bay area.

It’s been more than two months since droves of excited Republicans left Tampa thinking they had nominated the perfect guy to hoist President Barack Obama out of the White House. Even though Mitt Romney didn’t win the election, Al Austin, chair of the Tampa Bay Host Committee and a prominent local Republican said Tampa fared well for having Romney nominated here.

“Here we had a boost at the end of the summer season that was magnified by the bed tax increase – a record for Pinellas County, over $2.5 million and Hillsborough County had over $2 million. This was money found, extra money. Those people all stayed longer and spent more money and the hotels experienced higher occupancy than what they anticipated.”

There’s no arguing that hotels enjoyed the 50,000 delegates sleeping in their beds and the 15,000 journalists drinking in their bars. But small businesses around downtown didn’t fare as well. The week after the convention, of seven business owners and managers WMNF asked, only one was happy with the week’s sales. And even that one – a coffee shop frequented by police officers – didn’t make as much as they projected. But Austin said there were plenty of businesses that did well.

“They had some major contractors that did the work in the Forum and also in the Convention Center and they hired local electricians, local carpenters, local painters and plasterers and people that could do a lot of work.”

Austin said all those coffee-drinking officers – more than 3,000 of them – were an example of how much people in the area benefited from the event.

“You had police from different counties and they were getting double pay for security for almost a week. You had – we put in conduit, fiber optics and all kinds of electronics between the Convention Center and the Forum that stays in place. That will be here for years to come.”

Austin also said people who attended the convention who were surveyed said their perception of the Tampa Bay area improved after the convention. Even though the heat and humidity was an issue for some visitors, Austin claims most of them left the area thinking more of it than they did before they came.

Our previous RNC coverage

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