As the Republic National Convention Nears, Northeast Ohio Gets Ready for Its Close-Up

by David C. Barnett 

As the world is focusing on Ohio, and its potential impact on the choice of a new President, some Northeast Ohio civic leaders gathered Monday to talk about how the Republican National Convention may help boost the image of Cleveland --- both internationally, and locally.  

About a thousand people filled the floor of Cleveland Public Auditorium for the annual meeting of "Destination Cleveland" --- the Cuyahoga County convention and visitors bureau. A series of speakers were enthusiastic about a continuing campaign to upgrade the image of the city as a place to visit. This year, the main buzz was over the promise of an estimated 50,000 visitors in conjunction with the RNC, this summer.

Destination Cleveland CEO David Gilbert says there are 2000 new hotel rooms downtown, and many more in the suburbs, to accommodate all the delegates.  But, Gilbert thinks the most important visitors may be a throng of international journalists

"We are going to have 15,000 media, " he says,  "who have a chance to see Cleveland; and see Cleveland beyond what the convention brings to town.  And that's what we are most excited about."  

But, in the past week, some have wondered about the pictures that the world will see, with millions of dollars-worth of federally-financed steel barriers --- some over six feet high --- due to go up throughout parts of downtown, aimed at protecting delegates.  Gilbert says the exact layout of this security perimeter hasn't been determined

"What I do know is that the city and the Secret Service have been meeting as a group and individually with businesses and residents, particularly in downtown and the areas in and around where the security zones will be, to make sure that disruptions are minimized."

While the influx of all those visitors, putting millions of dollars into the local economy, is a nice financial bump, David Gilbert thinks the bigger impact will be on future visitors who come to town, based on the images of the city outside of the convention.  He also cites research that indicates Cleveland's image of itself is slowly changing.  Two years ago, 34% of area residents had a positive view of the city.  Gilbert says that has now risen to 54%. 

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