By Senator Lena C. Taylor
This week, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Tom Perez made the rounds in Wisconsin. From facility tours to meeting with area leaders, Perez was on the ground discussing the pending 2020 Democratic National Convention. Landing the most coveted event in politics, Milwaukee is poised to be “put on the map” as they say. Competing against the cities of Houston and Miami, Milwaukee was selected as the host city for next year’s big gig. But what does that really mean?
We have all heard the pre-convention expectations regarding the economic impact for the state. So, we reviewed the post data from the 2016 DNC Convention held in Philadelphia. Roughly 18,000 volunteers, 50,000 visitors, and 4,769 delegates came to Philly. The DNC alone was said to have spent $60 million towards convention costs. 90 hotels were contracted for delegates, with over 13,000 hotel rooms just for them.
With the more than 700 convention-related events, venues throughout the city were booked. Halls, museums, bars, and more were booked throughout the convention. Restaurants and coffee shops got enormous traffic and by most accounts most of the city’s residents thought the convention was worth the investment. All told over $200 million was spent by visitors during the convention. Therefore, it’s safe to say it was worth it to go after the convention.
But the question that remains for the African-American community and black owned businesses, what is the real impact of Milwaukee hosting the DNC for them?
Well, we had our first glimpse of that with the appearance of Perez on WNOV 860am radio on Thursday. Surrounded by African-Americans in the fields of business, politics, and civic engagement, the DNC chair talked about awarding the first local contract to the minority-owned BestEd firm. The office supply store’s co-owner was on hand to talk about the work the company would be doing with the DNC. There were multiple black owned businesses that already had a seat at the table. After hearing from many of the folks at the radio station, the convention became more real.
Less than a year away, we have a chance to improve the economic outcomes for many businesses in our communities. In thinking about how do we expand the tourist dollars and convention revenue to the north and south side of Milwaukee, there must be an orchestrated effort to have our businesses included. In the coming months, I look forward to working with the community and getting as many African-American organizations, businesses and individuals to the table, as possible. The real impact of the convention will be what we make it.