Small Businesses Brace for GOP Convention
BY Matt Quinn
August 27, 2004 -- It's unclear whether small businesses in New York City will profit from or lose out when the Republican National Convention comes to their town next week, but most are hoping that the city's businesses will fare better than Boston's during the Democratic National Convention earlier this month.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) estimated that the city and its businesses would reap a $265 million windfall from the four-day event. However, on Tuesday, City Comptroller William Thompson estimated that the city could lose $309 million in normal business activity, resulting in a net loss of $44 million.
Officials are expecting 50,000 visitors, including 14,000 delegates, to hit the city for the convention, which starts August 30. While there are sure to be commuter delays and general business disruption, no one is sure how bad they'll be. For comparison, the recent Democratic National Convention in Boston was considered to be a bust by many. The city had projected that the convention would inject more than $150 million into Boston's economy. But a study by The Beacon Hill Institute, a research arm of Suffolk University in Boston, found that the city gained only $14.8 million.
Michael Sherman, a spokesman for the NYCEDC, believes that won't happen in New York. "First off, Boston city officials told people to get out of town when the convention came in," he said, referring in part to Boston mayor Thomas Menino's pre-DNC urging that residents leave town. "Second, we do this type of thing all the time. Big events are our bread and butter."
With all the coming and going, however, few small businesses are believed to be banking on the week. Others, like the hundreds of small businesses in Chinatown, an area still reeling from the SARS scare last year, are hopeful that the convention can help boost business.
According to Sherman, the city is trying to be particularly sensitive to small businesses in the area near the convention. Members of the city host committee and the New York Police Department have been visiting local businesses trying to help them plan for deliveries when streets are shut off and for other possible problems.
New Yorkers, in general, are split on how they feel about the convention. A survey of registered voters conducted by Quinnipiac University found that roughly one-third believe the convention will be good for the city, another third think it will be bad and the remainder feel it will have no impact.
MATT QUINN contributes to the Wall Street Journal's corporate finance blog. He has also written extensively about banking and corporate finance for publications including Inc., American Banker, and Financial Week. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.