RNC Voices on the Street: Final Take
The political conventions are over, and now we're able to start answering the questions - what did residents of Tampa Bay actually get from the Republican National Convention?
Our final take from the series, Voices on the Street, compares what people said before the convention to what they're saying now it's over.
Michael Gentry sells the Epoch, a newspaper for homeless people in the bay area. You can almost always find him on Scott Street, near the I-275 and I-4 entrance ramps. It's a good spot to observe what's going on in Tampa.
“I think it’s going to be hard for some of the community business owners to get a boost in sales and all that because they're going to have a lot of blockage of all roads and a lot of places you know zones that you can't be in as far as the RNC's concerned,” Gentry said prior to the start of the convention. “I understand it’s for security purposes because these are important people.
A week later, Gentry said most of his regular customers disappeared for the week.
“I had less business,” Gentry confirmed but added, “One thing I was disappointed for the people of Tampa Bay that they didn’t stimulate the Tampa Bay economy at all. From what I gather from a lot of different people, there wasn’t a lot of spending going on around the city either.”
It’s sort of what Gentry predicted, however, he was surprised by one thing. He got more attention from out-of-town news media than from any of the RNC demonstrators.
“I had a Washington news station, Channel 7, stop by. I had an African American newspaper from Orlando stop by, but as far as protestors, I guess they were in their own little world,” Gentry said. “I guess they were more into what they were representing than someone on the streets trying to make it.”
Before the convention, the biggest challenge for Alexis Muellner, editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal, was to find a way to track the business deals the RNC might bring to the region.
“What we're after is sort of the intangible part which is how did the business community here promote their message?” Muellner said prior to the RNC. “What did they do to seed potential business in the future and what kinds of deals can be made realistically and what can be had and what's not realistic?”
After a week of symposiums, parties and convention meetings, Muellner said Tampa Bay received some intangible, positive exposure during the RNC like site-selection tours for meeting planners and convention bookers. And it will take time to know if other business developed.
“I think the metrics to watch certainly are some of the hard numbers like sales receipts which historically have been a challenge,” Muellner said. “It’s going to be hard to really find other measurables that relate to deals won or business development. Or are there things related to sequestration and the (MacDill AFB) base, military contracts and defense contracts that because they had the ear of somebody on a House intelligence committee or an elected official that is influential got a better understanding of our community there's just a better understanding of our region is and what it offers.”
Prior to the RNC, Bruce Frechette, owner of the Hot Donut Company on Franklin Street Mall, was in good spirits. This, despite having to move his kiosk two blocks because of the security fences erected around Tampa City Hall.
“We do serve protestors,” Frechette laughingly kidded, “I don't know about the anarchists.”
Some high profile restaurants and caterers said they did well during the RNC. But like many of the downtown food vendors, Frechette had one word to describe the RNC after it was all over.
“Uneventful from the perspective of the downtown core,” Frechette said. “Because once the delegates went inside that secure zone they never came out. They didn't and then the protestors didn't show up which really aggravated me. (Laughs) Because I was expecting to have a nice little protest bump. But, I'm just glad it’s over that's the general consensus we're just glad it’s over.
And that's what some of the Voices on the Street are saying about the RNC.