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Local businesses hope for economic boost if RNC comes to town

Posted at 4:23 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 18:24:08-05

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee is in the running to host the Republican National Convention in 2024, and that could bring a significant economic impact to the area.

Paul Whigham is the proud owner of Mi Casa Su Cafe on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood.

"So close to downtown, a lot of people come here and eat," Whigham said.

He's a few blocks away from Fiserv Forum, where the RNC could be held. The 2020 Democratic National Convention was supposed to be there, but the pandemic forced it to scale back.

"When I heard the DNC was coming, I said, OK, now it's time for me to apply for my sidewalk permit because I know I could get at least about 10-15 tables on the sidewalk to help boost my revenue," Whigham said. "And then it didn't happen."

Whigham says he was depending on that economic boost from the DNC. Now he and other small business owners are hoping for another chance if the RNC comes to town.

"That would be amazing," said Rita Lee, the co-owner of Big Daddy's BBQ and Soul Food in Riverwest. "That would get our name out there more."

Before the pandemic, the 2020 DNC was projected to bring an economic impact of $100 million to downtown and beyond.

"It's 45,000 attendees. They can't live in a little bubble downtown," said Claire Koenig, the communications director of Visit Milwaukee. "They are going to have to go out, they're going to have to stay outside of the downtown area, they're going to have to go to restaurants outside the downtown area. They're going to have to get some services, their nails done, a barbershop."

Jarrin Hicks owns Bronzeville Barber and Beauty Lounge on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

"The history of Bronzeville, this was one of the more prominent areas back in the past history here in Milwaukee," Hicks said. "A lot of people think it was actually downtown, which is like a prelude to it."

Whigham says he thinks a big part of hosting a national convention is not just to bring people here once, but to inspire them to come back.

"These businesses need help," Whigham said. "Any business that's open right now that has made it through the pandemic, I tip my hat off to them, congratulations, because it's hard. We're not out of the woods yet."

Salt Lake City and Nashville are two other cities being considered for the RNC. The decision should be made by the end of the summer.

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