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Capitalizing on the Convention: How northeast Wisconsin could benefit financially if the RNC comes to Wisconsin

Downtown Fond du Lac
Posted at 7:16 AM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 08:16:41-04

Business owners in northeast Wisconsin would welcome a potential business boost from the Republican National Convention if the RNC comes to Wisconsin in 2024.

"Come up here, and come on the path less traveled..." said Elle Kaderabek, owner of Highland Lodge & Pub in Manitowoc County's Cleveland.

Highland Lodge Lobby
The lobby of the Highland Lodge & Pub in Cleveland, Wis.

Kaderabek's business is about an hour north of downtown Milwaukee, which is a finalist for the 2024 RNC. Nashville is the other finalist.

Milwaukee would feel the biggest impact of the event, but "[i]t will help all of the smaller communities," said Craig Molitor, president, and CEO of Destination Lake Winnebago Region, the convention and visitors bureau for the Fond du Lac area.

Paperwork that lays out details of the event calls for up to 50,000 or more visitors to greater Milwaukee.

There are approximately 25,000 hotel rooms in greater Milwaukee, according to Visit Milwaukee.

If hotel rooms are needed outside greater Milwaukee, Molitor is pitching the Fond du Lac area for RNC visitors, compared to lodging near Chicago.

"[We have] less traffic, easier travel, faster commute, nice people... small-town Americana," Molitor said.

"[I]t's all right here and we'd love to show this off to the world."

Downtown Fond du Lac
Downtown Fond du Lac

A representative for Visit Milwaukee said right now they are not looking at hotels farther north than Sheboygan for the convention, but the process is ongoing.

TMJ 4, our sister station, reports that the decision on whether Milwaukee will host the RNC is expected this summer, and as soon as June.

Republican Party History

If potential RNC visitors do travel north from Milwaukee, they could find part of Republican Party history in Fond du Lac County's Ripon.

Near the city's downtown is the Little White Schoolhouse, a national historic landmark.

The building hosted the first political meeting of the Republican party in 1854, according to a government history website.

A sign above the door reads "Birthplace of the Republican Party."

"Everyone is welcome, the Schoolhouse is strictly a historic, non-partisan site," said Brian Reilly, who is in charge of giving tours at the museum.

"Whether it's Republicans from the RNC, or Democrats or anyone else, they're more than welcome to visit and take a tour and learn about the Schoolhouse's history."

"The More People, the Merrier"

If RNC visitors to downtown Ripon are looking for a meal or a beer, one option is Knuth Brewing.

Owner David Knuth hopes he could see a boost in the business.

"Whether you're Democrat, Republican, who cares," Knuth said. "The more people, the merrier, when you're in business we're happy to have people."

Political Impact in Northeast Wisconsin?

A large element of politics is tied to whether or not voters are excited, said Timothy Bachleitner, chairman of the Fond du Lac County GOP.

And having the RNC in Milwaukee would excite the entire state, Bachleitner said.

"It's going to help me as a chairman here in Fond Du Lac County to be able to put that message out to my county, that if the RNC is coming here to our state... that's how important it is for each one of us to get active, each one of us to dig down deep, and show up at the polls."

In Manitowoc County, the co-chair of the County Democratic Party believes the event would boost turnout on both sides.

"I think the Republicans will energize [Democrats]," Kerry Trask said.

Historically, in the last ten contests, the GOP has won five of the states that hosted the RNC.

If the RNC comes to Milwaukee, the potential dates are in July or August 2024, according to paperwork laying out potential details of the event.