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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Editorials

RNC hit economic home run

Published:

Any doubts about the value of Tampa hosting the Republican National Convention last year should be shredded by the economic analysis that found the event had a local economic impact of $404 million, far more than a typical Super Bowl.

Some skeptics dismiss the value of landing such major events, maintaining that they add little new spending to the economy but simply replace spending that would normally occur.

Tell that to local hotels. The report prepared for the Tampa Bay Host Committee found that the hotel occupancy last year was up 70 percent from the previous year.

The analysis by a University of Tampa economist is extremely conservative.

The report covered only spending in the Tampa Bay area — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota — though other Florida communities, including Orlando, experienced economic benefits.

The study, for instance, was cautious in calculating the impact of infrastructure spending by private companies, which may use out-of-town workers or buy equipment elsewhere.

Direct private infrastructure spending for the RNC was $291 million, but was adjusted to $125 million in economic impact with the use of a highly regarded formula that addresses such matters.

The study also found the convention increased local sales tax collections by 3.2 percent, or $363 million — though this is not considered part of the economic impact.

It should be clear to all but the most resolute naysayers that the RNC was a home run for the local economy.

Moreover, much of the investment that was made in infrastructure and security for the convention continues to benefit the area. Tampa police, for instance, now use the bicycles, mobile surveillance cameras and various vehicles that were acquired for the RNC to enhance local patrols.

Not every local business benefited. The tight security limited foot traffic and parking downtown. Many downtown workers stayed home, hurting certain merchants.

Still, the RNC, as the report underscores, mostly lit a fuse for local commerce during the usually languid days of summer. And most conventioneers left impressed by the efficiency and warmth of their host city, which showed it can smoothly handle the most daunting of challenges — even when the threat of a tropical storm complicates things.

It helped that the Tampa Bay Host Committee did a terrific job, raising $60 million in private contributions. Calculations are still being done, but it looks as if the committee will have as much as $2 million left over to donate to local charities.

This contrasts sharply with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, where the host committee missed its $36.6 million fundraising target, leaving Duke Energy on the hook for a $10 million line of credit it guaranteed the event. Members of the Tampa Bay Host Committee, led by President Ken Jones and Chairman Al Austin, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Police Chief Jane Castor, Sheriff David Gee and other local leaders, deserve credit for their rigorous preparations and oversight of the historic event.

Whatever trouble and inconvenience the convention may have caused, it delivered a major return on investment.

And that return should continue for many years. As Buckhorn put it: “This was our introduction to the world, and we passed with flying colors. ... I think that will resonate with people for many decades, with benefits far beyond the immediate economic impact.”

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