Economist cautions RNC-related economic impact will likely be well below expectations

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For weeks Milwaukee city and community leaders have been touting the potential benefits of the 2024 Republican National Convention. But an economist is cautioning the actual financial payoff will likely be significantly less than expected.

Dr. Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross, has studied the economic impact of political conventions and large-scale events going back decades. His research shows political conventions have a statistically insignificant impact on local economies, including job creation and income increases.

And he cautions many more Milwaukeeans could be inconvenienced by a convention than will benefit.

Dr. Matheson said, “Trying to get up to a $100 or $200-million figure is almost impossible if you look at the actual event.”

Dr. Matheson's message is in stark contrast to the one coming from the team pushing for Milwaukee to host the 2024 RNC.

At a signing ceremony heralding the common council's unanimous support of a framework deal, VISIT Milwaukee President & CEO Peggy Williams-Smith said, “We know that conventions mean money for our city and for a region and for our state.”

At the same ceremony, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson touted “All the tourism convention dollars that will float of this community as a result.”

Dr. Matheson and two fellow researchers have studied the economic impacts of every political convention and host city since 1972.

His conclusion: “I think the vast majority of people will find a political convention much more of a hassle than some sort of real benefit to the city.”

Despite some concerns, RNC proponents have long said the convention could bring in $200-250-million to the region.

Gerard Randall, of the RNC Milwaukee Host Committee, said Wednesday, “I don’t see any pressures that it will bring, I see only a generous amount of economic activity that will be generated.”

And District 10 Alderman Mike Murphy said, “I think the benefit to the taxpayers is pretty significant.”

Dr. Matheson's research does show some sectors may do well -- like hotels, bars and restaurants. But other sectors like retail and service providers could actually lose sales. Personal income per capita and employment growth in convention cities were also negligible.

Dr. Matheson said typically only the industries directly connected to a convention will benefit. “Otherwise Milwaukee has an extremely poor week, again because there’s massive security, massive congestion, massive problems associated with it.”

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