Republican National Convention: Milwaukee's pitch for 2024

Big bucks and international exposure – that's what winning the bid to host the Republican National Convention could mean for Milwaukee.

A Republican delegation was in Milwaukee on Wednesday and Thursday, and local party leaders told FOX6 News the group was impressed by what they saw. The business leaders who hosted the group shed more light on the visit Friday.

VISIT Milwaukee, which organized the bid to host and led the delegation's tour Thursday, estimates that landing the 2024 convention could mean $200 million for the regional economy.

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To win that business boost, Milwaukee businesses gave the Republican guests a taste of Milwaukee. Wednesday night, it was a cocktail reception and dinner at Lake Park Bistro.

"We are in a French bistro, so beautiful caviar, and Champaign when they first came in," said Chef Paul Bartolotta. "Our most valuable asset in Milwaukee is our lakefront."

Milwaukee threw a grand old party to win over the GOP decision makers.

"This isn’t about politics. This is about promoting our home and our town, and putting it on a national, if not international stage, for the world to see," Bartolotta said. "This is a great destination. It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to do business."

The national Republican leaders also ate and played at the just-opened 3rd Street Market Hall on Thursday.

"I heard it multiple times where they say they love Milwaukee," the hall's co-owner Omar Shaikh said. "I think it’s the hospitality that makes the difference here."

The group of roughly two dozen people also toured Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, American Family Field, Wisconsin State Fair Park, the Summerfest grounds, the Riverside Theater, Lakefront Brewery and Fiserv Forum – sites big and small that could host meetings, concerts and parties.

"They loved every single one of them," said VISIT Milwaukee's Claire Koenig.

A national political convention brings tens of thousands of people – and their cash – to host cities, filling hotels, bars and restaurants.

"The exposure that these political conventions bring, you can't beat it," Koenig said. "For a city to showcase itself, not just to the world as a great destination to live, work and play, but as a place for other meeting planners to now consider because we just pulled off a 45,000-person convention."

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"It would be great for business. We need the shot in the arm," said Shaikh. "It shows that we are world-class. I felt like that happened when we won the DNC, and now if we can win the RNC now, shows we’re world-class.

"There’s so many of us who always believed that, and now we want to prove it and show the people and show our hospitality and how welcoming we are as a city."

Milwaukee is one of three finalists to host the 2024 convention, competing with Salt Lake City and Nashville – where the delegation will visit next. A previous finalist, Pittsburgh, is no longer in the running.

Wisconsin Republican Chairman Paul Farrow said he thinks the GOP could decide the winner as early as this spring.


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