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Economist explores economic impact of 2024 RNC in Milwaukee

By Elaine Rojas-Castillo,


Since plans for the Republican National Convention were in their early days, we’ve heard that it stands to bring upwards of $200 million in revenue and 50,000 new visitors to Milwaukee over the course of three days next July.

That steep number left us thinking, is that possible?

“It's not a horse race. It's not as though we set this goal of $200 million in total economic impact and if we don't hit it, it's a failure. I think that's the wrong way of looking at it,” said Steven Deller, Professor of Agricultural Applied Economics at UW-Madison.

Other similar-sized cities, like Cleveland, which hosted the RNC in 2016, made a similar goal of $200 million, but came in short.

Deller says the cost of bringing a convention to a city isn’t cheap and that plays a big factor in how much money can be made back on the investment.

“There's going to be all sorts of costs that the city's going to have to face. So, it's not free. Oftentimes, you will see with these major events that the promotion turns into advocacy and the advocacy tends to become a little overly optimistic,” said Deller.

Deller crunched the numbers for us, comparing a study that collected data from 2008 and 2012 party conventions and says political conventions typically generate about 29,000 room nights of lodging with an average price during a high demand time of $175/night.

That comes out to $5,075,000 in potential hotel spending.

Add to that about $200 per person a day in food and travel expenses, the potential grand total of visitor spending is $55,075,000.

Deller says while this number is markedly different than the goal we’ve heard time and time again, it’s nothing to be discouraged about.

“This will be an injection of dollars into the Milwaukee area, into southeastern Wisconsin, and it will a short-term boom to many hotels and restaurants, but it won't be to the extent. It's not going to be close to $200 million,” said Deller.

Deller says that as we approach the convention’s arrival, rather than looking at the $200 million as a goal, we should look at it as an advocacy project, with the goal of making Milwaukee a world-class city.

“The convention has an opportunity to do that, and that will have a bigger, more sustainable impact than the injection of visitors staying at hotels and eating at restaurants,” said Deller.

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