Both cities have also developed robust alliances among their research universities and technology businesses to spur new industry innovation, especially health tech in Cleveland and advanced manufacturing in Philadelphia. Championing that, Cleveland State University last year published: “From Metal to Minds: Economic Restructuring in the Rust Belt.”
Now it’s time to show off all that to a global audience on the biggest stage possible for either city.
“Philadelphia is really having a moment because we’ve done so much in the last 10 years to change the image of our city in so many ways,” says Julie Coker Graham, CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB). “That’s why events like last year’s World Meeting of Families papal visit and the DNC are choosing Philadelphia, for kind of that momentum we’re experiencing. It’s about the complete transformation of the city and how vibrant it has become.”
Philadelphia hosted the 2000 RNC, so it’s ability to host a citywide event the size of the 2016 DNC wasn’t a question for the Democratic site selection committee. Graham told Skift that “the cranes all over the City Center District show the continuing progress in Philadelphia, but that was only one of several reasons why the DNC committee chose to host the event here.”
In Ohio, David Gilbert, CEO and president of Destination Cleveland, expressed the exact same sentiment, saying that the Republican site selection committee wanted to see strong public-private partnerships, above and beyond all of the new downtown infrastructure, which is considerable.
Since 2011, according to the Cleveland+ regional marketing initiative, “$11.7 billion has been invested within the City of Cleveland, much of it attracted by public-private partnerships.”
Many U.S. cities, Gilbert explained, can provide the necessary hotel room block, convention space, and transportation services required to host a national political convention. However, the ability to bring all of the stakeholders in a city together as one collective force to create an all-inclusive delegate experience is a whole other matter.
“The CVB cannot pull off a political convention on its own,” said Gilbert. “It takes an enormous coordinated effort throughout the community to secure a national political convention.”
That included raising $64 million among local businesses, government, and universities that the RNC required for the city to host the event. The federal government is kicking in another $50 million to pay for security costs.
“What was critically important for them was really the people, and how we put together the public and private civic partnership, and the fact that the local community across the board was incredibly passionate in wanting this convention,” Gilbert explained. “The private-public partnerships are about embracing our convention industry, and the growth of that industry, to attract conventions and make sure the right experience is there for their delegates.”
According to the tourism and convention bureaus in Philadelphia and Cleveland, their public-private partnerships, new urban infrastructure, and surging kno