Northeast Ohio Businesses Are Lining Up for a Piece of the RNC Pie
When the Republican National Convention wraps up in Cleveland this summer, a wide range of area businesses will have shared in a direct economic impact estimated at up to $250 million.
The RNC has lined up most of the businesses hoping for a piece of this pie. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports on what some of them are experiencing so far.
More than 2,000 vendors have been picked to supply the convention with everything from catering, limousines, sign makers and makeup to musical performers, hair styling and flowers. The Twelfth Street Florist in downtown Cleveland is on the list. Inside the street-front shop, designer Lynn Metzger is hopeful.
Businesses are waiting for calls to come
“We do plant rental for the convention center and things like that, so we were hoping for something along those lines, or centerpieces for functions, balloons, anything someone might need for a party or a gathering.
She's hoping for a business boon.
"I know they’ll probably be on a budget of sorts. I’ve already had a contact from a young lady who just happened to be walking by, and she’s with the RNC committee, and she’s keeping us in mind. I even told them we have access to getting little elephant-shaped balloons or stuffed elephants or things like that if that’s something they might possibly need.”
Metzger says her shop signed up to provide flowers for the Senior and Gay Games held in Cleveland, but didn’t get any business.
From the downtown out
Almost all of downtown Cleveland’s restaurants and banquet rooms are already booked solid with RNC events that week. But much more space is available in all directions. RNC officials are reassuring restaurateurs and caterers on the list from across the region that bookings will start moving outward from downtown and eventually reach their establishments.
At Agostino’s Catering and Event Center in suburban Brooklyn, the kitchen staff is busy preparing a recent Friday fish fry. Agostino’s started as a restaurant many years ago, but closed and was recently resurrected by owner Joe Gallo as a banquet hall in a new location.
During the RNC, he hopes to be cooking meals for convention-related events.
Suburban caterers are teaming with hotels
“We’ve had a couple calls already -- just inquiring if anything is open that week. We are still wide open. We are planning to do a pop-up Agostino’s Restaurant during that timeframe to give an outlet for people who are looking for other restaurants because they’re saying a lot things downtown are going to be booked.
"A lot of hotels out this way are completely sold out, so we have an affiliation with the owners and general managers and their people are going to be looking for somewhere to go and eat.”
Gallo says he’s has worked out agreements with nearby hotels hosting RNC delegations to push business his way.
Ilona Simon is Agostino’s marketing and special events director. Besides booking parties and dinners, she’s looking into attracting organizations to rent out the space for the entire RNC week, something like Twitter has done in restaurateur Jonathon Sawyer’s downtown establishment, The Greenhouse Tavern.
Some hope to attract more than just diners
“We certainly have enough room for that. Even any type of media -- CNN comes in or whatever -- and they cannot find a space downtown, we certainly have the space for it and we’re only 7 minutes from downtown. So it would certainly make sense to set up shop here and do something like that.”
"They're going to be in the suburbs and other parts of the city, and I think once those hotels are assigned, we're going to find people are going to book different venues."
As suburban Cleveland businesses wait for bookings, RNC Committee on Arrangements CEO Jeff Larson
says -- as more of the 56 state and territory delegations find out at which hotel they’re staying -- business will pick-up.
Hotel assignments critical for business
“They’re not all going to be downtown. They’re going to be in the suburbs and other parts of the city, and I think once those hotels are assigned, we’re going to find people are going to book different venues and different places closer to their delegation hotels.
"And so that will start to impact some of the suburban areas and countywide, multiple counties.”
Sandusky seeing RNC impact
A few hotel assignments have been announced. One is as far away as Sandusky where the California delegation is staying. President of the Erie County Chamber of Commerce, Pamela Smith, says the RNC’s impact is already being felt in the tourist-oriented community on Lake Erie.
“We’re getting constant calls from people from all different places who are looking for hotels; they’re looking for restaurants; they’re looking for places to go and see tourism items here during the RNC.”
Smith says the interest from all over the country, and from around the world, is good news for Sandusky because of the exposure to a new group of people who may come back. At least 50,000 people are expected to attend the RNC.