MILWAUKEE – Big money and international exposure — that’s what winning the bid to host the Republican National Convention could mean for Milwaukee.
A Republican delegation was in Milwaukee on Wednesday and Thursday, and local party leaders told FOX6 News the group was impressed with what they saw. Business leaders who hosted the group shed some light on the visit on Friday.
VISIT Milwaukee, which organized the bid to host and led the delegation’s tour on Thursday, estimates that landing the 2024 convention could mean $200 million for the regional economy.
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To gain that business boost, Milwaukee businesses gave Republican guests a taste of Milwaukee. Wednesday night was cocktails and dinner at Lake Park Bistro.
“We are in a French bistro, so beautiful caviar, and Champagne when they arrived,” said chef Paul Bartolotta. “Our most valuable asset in Milwaukee is our lakefront.”
Milwaukee threw a big party to win over GOP decision makers.
“It’s not about politics. It’s about promoting our home and our city, and putting it on a national and even international stage for the world to see,” Bartolotta said. “It’s a great destination. It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to do business.”
National Republican leaders also ate and played at the 3rd Street Market Hall which just opened on Thursday.
“I’ve heard it many times where they say they love Milwaukee,” said venue co-owner Omar Shaikh. “I think it’s the hospitality that makes the difference here.”
The group of about two dozen people also visited the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, American Family Field, Wisconsin State Fair Park, Summerfest grounds, Riverside Theatre, Lakefront Brewery and Fiserv Forum – small venues and large that can accommodate meetings, concerts and parties.
“They loved every one of them,” said Claire Koenig of VISIT Milwaukee.
A national political convention brings tens of thousands of people — and their money — to host cities, filling hotels, bars and restaurants.
“The exposure that these political conventions bring, you can’t beat it,” Koenig said. “For a city to present itself to the world, not only as a great destination to live, work and play, but as a place that other meeting planners can now consider, because we just held a convention of 45 000 people.”
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“That would be great for business. We need a shot in the arm,” Shaikh said. “It shows we’re world class. I felt like that happened when we won the DNC, and now, if we can win the RNC now, it shows we’re world class.
“There are so many of us who have always believed that, and now we want to prove it and show people and show our hospitality and how welcoming we are as a city.”
Milwaukee is one of three finalists to host the 2024 convention, competing with Salt Lake City and Nashville — where the delegation will travel next. A former finalist, Pittsburgh, is no longer in contention.
Wisconsin Republican President Paul Farrow said he thinks the GOP could decide the winner as early as this spring.