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Cleveland Desires Long-Term Economic Surge From RNC

RNC Host Committee CEO David Gilbert, with new Hilton Hotel under construction (pic: Brian Bull)
RNC Host Committee CEO David Gilbert, with new Hilton Hotel under construction (pic: Brian Bull)

By ideastream's Brian Bull

This Thursday, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena hosts the first Republican Primary Debate.  It’s a little less than a year before the RNC opens its doors to at least 50,000 people in the same venue.  

RNC organizers and city residents hope the preparations for the convention will create an economic ripple that’s long lasting.

In the downtown area, RNC Host Committee CEO David Gilbert watches construction of a 600-room Hilton Hotel that’s set to open in May next year.  Up the street, crews are renovating Public Square, set to reopen June of 2016….weeks ahead of the RNC. 

But Gilbert’s beyond those projects’ completion. 

“We believe that the true effect of having this convention should be seen over the next three, five, and even ten years, and not just that weekend.” 

In short, Gilbert hopes Cleveland’s highlights will inspire people to visit, move to, invest in, or get degrees and jobs here.

For now, Gilbert says he’s still working to raise a total of $64 million – mostly operational costs such as upgrading Quicken Loans Arena – and secure 4,000 hotel rooms, as part of Cleveland’s commitment as host city. 

A headache to be sure, but it has a payoff. 

“The economic impact of the convention itself with an estimated $200-250 million in direct spending is tremendous.” 

So what are some likely places that could benefit? 

"I’m standing right here on East 4 th, and this is my little mini-Bourbon Street!” exclaims New Orleans native Ronald Veals, surrounded by diners and people walking towards Progressive Field for an Indians game.  He moved here in 2010, and has already seen upticks in the city’s economy. 

While he doesn’t deny the RNC will give businesses a boost, he hopes delegates take note of some of Cleveland’s ongoing social challenges, too…especially those facing lower-income African-Americans:

“Homelessness, and also police brutality and injustice.” 

Issues that social campaigners have highlighted on Cleveland billboards ahead of Thursday’s debate.