Milwaukee Business Owners Cautiously Optimistic About RNC Economic Impact


Large-scale events that bring an influx of visitors to a city can dramatically benefit local businesses. However, some business owners in Milwaukee, where the upcoming Republican National Convention will be hosted, aren’t sure what to expect.

Gregory León, who owns Amilinda, a downtown restaurant located just outside of the U.S. Secret Service’s security perimeter, told WISN, “We were told that this was just going to be a cash cow for everybody involved, especially everybody downtown, and it’s looking more and more like that is not necessarily going to be the case.”

With less than three weeks from the start of the Convention, the restaurant doesn’t have any reservations related to the event. And after speaking to restaurant owners in other cities that have hosted conventions, his understanding is that most of the foot traffic is likely to stay within the security perimeter.

However, the restaurant is located near some hotels. So León is still hopeful that business will pick up. In fact, he has expanded the restaurant’s hours and offering members of the press, security, and armed forces.

Officials in Milwaukee expect the RNC to generate about $200 million for the local economy. But that includes both short and long-term impacts. So even if Amilinda and other businesses like it don’t receive as much immediate business as they previously thought, it may still provide long-term benefits by drawing new visitors to the city and showcasing what they have to offer.

León said, “It’ll be great for tourism next year or the year after. That’s great, and I understand that. But like, maybe not set those expectations so high. You know, it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.”

While it is likely that businesses within the security perimeter will see a large influx of sales right away, there is uncertainty for those on the outskirts. The long-term benefits can still make it worthwhile for cities to host large conferences like this. But individual businesses should keep their expectations realistic. A few minor changes like extra hours or adding a few employees to your on-call schedule may be worth it. But businesses may not need to make huge changes in anticipation of tons of foot traffic that may or may not come to pass.

Image: Shutterstock

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.