by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
January 26, 2012
MICHAEL HARRINGTON'S "OTHER AMERICA" COMES BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
TAMPA, Jan. 23, 2011 -- The upcoming 2012 Republican National Convention will have a strong negative economic impact on the City of Tampa, Fla., where it will be held Aug. 27-30, 2012, a prominent economist told the American Reporter Monday night after the NBC Presidential Debate, but the party’s former national chairman told us shortly afterwards it will present a "great, great benefit” for the party in this year’s post-convention election campaign.
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, who awarded the convention to Tampa near the end of his lone term as chair, said he believes "there's a huge upside" for the City of Tampa and that it presents "a great, great opportunity" for the GOP as the party's national campaign begins next Fall.
Professor Philip Porter, Ph.D, who was USF's official "expert" on the economy and business in the "spin room" after the debate, said the question is one of his special interests. He has published numerous papers on on the economic impact of huge sports events.
Despite all the advance hoopla about packed hotels and restaurants, not only does the convention and the associated costs and inconvenience represent an economic burden, he said, but studies have shown that Super Bowls - which have been played five times in Tampa - have no positive economic impact, Porter said.
"Do you think the Republican is convention is going to have a major economic impact on the Tampa Bay region?" Porter was asked in a taped interview in the spin room after the debate..
"Yeah, a negative one," the tall, spare economist responded. "Conventions are like the Super Bowl. A bunch of people come into your come into your town for four or five or six days, and then they leave. The hotels are typically full, anyways - you don't build hotels if there's not room and capacity for them - the people that come buy some meals and they leave. There's just no economic impact."
As an example of the consequences of a convention, Porter said Boston lost the economic benefit of a million visitors who ordinarily come to see the magnificent "Tall Ships" regatta in the Boston Harbor when it was canceled due to the 2004 Democratic Convention there, trading those numbers for the 35,000 high-security visitors it received from the DNC.
Boston's mayor said the net benefit of the convention would be $154 million. A Temple University study of the Democratic National Convention in 2004 showed that economic ectivity in Boston went down bcause so much had be shut down - including subways, Porter said. The Beacon Hill Institute said the convention brought a "small net profit" of $14.8 million, far less than city fathers claimed.
"What ends up happening, of course," Portrr said, "is that we'll spend a year training our police force to worry about terrorist attack when they're not guarding my house from burglary and robbery. They will spend a whole lot of money on infrastructure that's necessary to protect the Republicans while we're here - that'll have no value for us once they leave. And, essentially, the Republican National Convention's going to create a whole lot of differences for us that we have to adjust to, but not a whole lot of economic impact.
"For instance, you're going to end up shutting down downtown bus line systems; you're going to have to move people away from the convention center; you're going to have to have corridors where people can travel back and forth. When a big dignitary lands at the airport, they shut off all the transportation routes to move people back and forth safely. So we're going to have to pay for all those adjustments. We're going to be put out, we're going to be inconvenienced ... the traffic is going to be terrible," he said.
"Tha same thing's going to happen here," he said. Another study last year published by Robert Baade and Dr. Victor Mathiesen in a journal called the Southern Economist measured the very thorough gross sales data available on Florida towns and cities to allow economists to compare economic activity in one month against the same month in years before and after. They go through the data and compare Super Bowls and conventions and sporting events against months that don't have them. What they found was that the sporting events and conventions had no real economic impact [beyond their expense], Porter said.
"The real economic impact isn't from these (what I call)conmsumption events," Porter said. "They come from "investment events. So, invest in your infrastructure,m invest in your education, and your businesses. And keep your taxes low enough and you'll have a good enconomy," Porter said.
Michael Steele, the first black chairman of the national Republican Party, was skeptical of Porter's forecast.
"I know in our looking at it, we saw a huge economic benefit, both for the party being here. In terms of the overall cost it was very cost-effective to be here - and certainly for Tampa, there's a huge upsaide. I mean, I don't know what the basis of that [forecast] is. I don't know what he's basing that on. My comment to that is, let's see the numbers add up at the end," Steele said.
Of course, if the convention is a big economic loss, it will be too late to do anything about it.
The real benefit for the party, Steele agrees, is in the convention being held in the voter-rich and volatile I-4 Corridor between Tampa, Orlando and the Atlantic coast.
"Oh, yeah, I mean it's huge," he said. "I mean it's absolutely huge. I mean, going into our national campaign, coming out of the I-4 Corridor is going to be a huge bump for the party, I believe - a great opportunity for our nominee to hit the ground running with a cross-section of Americans who call this part of Florida home. I think it's going to be a great, great opportunity for us and we'll take advantage of it going into September, October and November." Joe Shea is Editor of The American Reporter. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.