RNC: Where we are now

August 7, 2015
RNC: Where we are now

The Countdown to the RNC: Updates and Visions

By Lexi Hotchkiss

If you live here in Cleveland, the mere utterance of the words "Republican National Convention" conjures up a rather dramatic amount of civic pride. We would say it's not dissimilar to our passion for a certain Cleveland Cavaliers player, but it comes with far less powder tossing, ref hating and pyrotechnics.

Suffice it to say, this town is pretty darn proud to be hosting the Republic National Convention in 2016. Heck, the last time we did it was 80 years ago. This is a big, big deal for our city.

So, with the massive event less than a year away (July 18-21, 2016), we thought we'd take a minute to share some Convention-related updates and visions.

We sat down with David Gilbert, the head honcho extraordinaire at Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, who was recently appointed the CEO of the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee.

First thing's first, though, what's this Host Committee you keep hearing about?

"The way the convention works is that a non-profit host committee is formed - by law - to be the host and represent the community. So, technically, a convention is not necessarily awarded to a city or CVB, but rather to a host committee," Gilbert explained.

So, now we know what the Host Committee does, let's talk updates...


Imagine more than 50 of the city's top PR execs, ad agencies, journalists and marketing experts working collaboratively to promote one of the largest events in Cleveland's history.

It's a Republican National Convention reality. This dream team of local mavens has assembled into six subcommittees each focused on applying their expertise to a different area of Convention marketing.

"First and foremost, the goal is to maximize Cleveland's opportunity to shine in front of the 15,000 credentialed media who'll be in town," Gilbert said. "This is a once-in-a-generational opportunity to showcase Cleveland to the largest group of media at any single event outside of the Olympics."

So, while we all know the media will be in town to cover the convention, this marketing machine is focused on maximizing if, how much, and what the media covers specifically about Cleveland.

And, right now that means the group is doing a lot of qualitative and quantitative research, as well as setting strategic plans in motion for the next 12 months.

Securing Accommodations

When you've got 50,000 visitors in town, you'd best have a place for them to rest their laurels overnight. The Convention will require a whopping 16,000 hotel rooms throughout Northeast Ohio - 5,000 of which will be downtown.

Right now, Gilbert and his team have secured accommodations within a 40-mile radius of downtown Cleveland for the Convention.

"Beyond that, we are working with the hotels on tying into the transportation system, how to prepare for the event, what they can expect and some methods to providing the best possible visitor experience," he said.

But the buck doesn't stop there.

The same assistance is being provided to those communities, suburbs and towns where convention attendees will be staying overnight.


In the past few months, the Host Committee has implemented a strategic and coordinated effort focused on raising new dollars.

Why the need to fundraise?

"There were eight cities that bid on the convention. Cleveland won. But before any of those cities made the decision to bid, we all knew we would be obligated to pay for much of the convention. We do that through fundraising."

These dollars will help pay for most of the non-political expenses related to the Convention, the majority of which will be spent right here in C-town.

So, at the end of the day, the fundraising dollars are simply a re-investment back into the community. #Boom. A win for all of us.

Boosting Local Businesses

There is expected to be $200-$250 million in direct spending right here in Cleveland as a result of the convention.

Who's shelling out that kind of cash?

As it turns out, the majority of that spending is done by outside groups who are holding roughly 1,200 smaller events all throughout Cleveland during the Convention timeframe.

These groups include all 50 state delegations who'll hold breakfasts, lunches and dinners. There'll be caucus gatherings of all shapes and sizes. And, then there are political, corporate and other legislative organizations interested in hosting meetings, receptions, conventions and special events.

"We want to do everything we can to encourage these folks to spend with local vendors," Gilbert said. "So, we're creating a list of local suppliers who fall within different categories for which spending is likely to happen. We'll work with the Republican National Committee to get this directory into the hands of those groups who are likely to be planning events."

If you're a local business who's interested in learning more, visit www.2016cle.com/become-a-supplier.

Volunteer Recruitment

If ever there were an opportunity to volunteer for a Cleveland civic event, this is it. The Host Committee is looking for as many as 6,000 volunteers.

Right now, local volunteers are being pursued who are committed to providing a top-notch Cleveland visitor experience. So, if you've got a pension for giving others the warm fuzzies, consider becoming a street ambassador or a greeter at the airport, hotels or on transportation.

Visit the Host Committee's volunteer website to sign up for these and a myriad of other volunteer positions.

Full-Time Staff Members

The Host Committee is charged with the easier-said-than-done task of managing this not-so-little convention. To do so, staff is required. That's why the Host Committee has hired five full-time staff members throughout the last few months.

But when efficiency is the name of the game, Cleveland is one lucky duck.

"In Cleveland, we decided to strongly engage existing organizations that - by the course of their work - already do a number of the things required to assist the host committee," said Gilbert.

That means Destination Cleveland is managing much of the marketing, communications, venue arrangements and housing needs because, after all, that's what they do everyday. The same goes with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, which will handle many of the volunteer logistics.

Visions for the Future

Looking forward, Gilbert notes that it's important to recognize the tremendous benefits the Republican National Convention will have on the community in the long term.

According to Gilbert, the city can't lose sight of the $200-$250 million in direct spending.

But, it's critical to remember the lasting impact of being in the international media's limelight. It'll also create an opportunity for major business leaders and policy makers to invest in the community and help develop business.

"It's really important to help the Republican National Committee run a wonderful convention, but we need to examine how we do it in a way that positions Cleveland for the best long-term benefits."

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