Experts: Expect big local impact

WARREN – Local tourism and economic development leaders already have begun laying the groundwork to capitalize on the impact of the Republican National Convention when it hits Cleveland two summers from now.

But the potential demand for hospitality needs like hotel rooms or catering, transportation, or golf courses and entertainment may be small compared to impact of global exposure and media coverage, said one Cleveland-area economic development expert.

“I really do think all of northeast Ohio will see direct and indirect economic benefits because it’s so large,” said Joe Roman, president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland’s chamber of commerce.

Northeast Ohio’s biggest city this week won the unanimous backing of a Republican National Committee panel to bring the GOP’s 2016 National Convention to Cleveland in June 2016. The economic impact to northeast Ohio is expected to be massive.

A post-convention report showed, for example, that organizers of the last Republican National Convention, held 2012 in Tampa, Fla., indicated $58 million in fundraising triggered $214 million in direct economic impact from the some 50,000 activists, officials and reporters who descended on that city.

Local leaders, aware of the possibilities, already are busy gathering data and developing ways to get involved.

“It’s a fact that they don’t have enough (hotel) rooms right in downtown Cleveland,” Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber President and CEO Thomas Humphries said. “So it does force things east or west.”

For reasons like that, Humphries said he already has been in discussions for weeks with the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

Humphries said one of the key issues he has been examining is the need for increased transportation from the Youngstown-Warren area to Cleveland, possibly by rail.

In addition to a ground transportation to Cleveland, air services likely will be needed for private aircraft flying into northeast Ohio.

Although it’s likely most of those private jets would fly into small airports closer to Cleveland, such as Cuyahoga County or Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport will be ready and able to handle additional flights as needed, said Dan Dickten, the airport’s director of aviation.

Stephanie Sferra, director of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, said she, too, has already begun gathering data and researching anticipated demands from convention travelers, particularly through the regional tourism association known as Adventures in Northeast Ohio, with the intention of coordinating a plan to take advantage of the potential tourism impact.

And whether or not caterers, hotels or other local business sees big effects, U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, understands the situation is an extraordinary marketing opportunity for the local area as the world turns its eyes to northeast Ohio.

“It’s an opportunity for our area to show off what we are doing here,” Ryan said. “There’s going to be heavy hitters from all over the country and we need to take advantage.”

As an example, Ryan specifically referred to the work going on in Youngstown by America Makes to develop and escalate additive manufacturing.

“I think it’s great. It’s going to be a huge economic benefit for the entire region. It’s nothing but positive, regardless of what political party you are,” Ryan said.

Roman, of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, couldn’t agree more. Thousands of worldwide media will be descending on Cleveland for weeks before and after the four-day convention, he said.

“Their primary responsibility will be to cover the convention, but before and after those four days, they are going to be learning things about our region that can be future stories that can benefit us for weeks or even months after that,” Roman said. “Telling the whole northeast Ohio story through the international media is really a way to attract capital into our region. We can showcase the whole shale and gas industry that is taking place literally right under your feet. It will be a tremendous opportunity for marketing.”