Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 11 2014

How Cleveland Landed The Republican National Convention

By David McMillin


As speculation surrounding the upcoming Presidential election heats up, one piece of the campaign puzzle is already in place for the GOP. The Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland during the summer of 2016. Some outsiders may look at the selection as a nod to Republican aspirations of winning Ohio in their pursuit of the White House, but the hope of winning those coveted Midwestern votes was just a small factor in Cleveland’s victory.

Sure, it’s no secret that Ohio plays a crucial role in the balance of today’s political landscape. David Gilbert, President and CEO, Positively Cleveland, acknowledges that the swing state status certainly did not hurt Cleveland’s chances of securing the convention, but he highlights that Cleveland’s bid embodied a term that doesn’t seem to get much traction in the nation’s capital: bipartisan.

“This was not about politics,” Gilbert says. “We have a Democratic mayor and a Democratic county executive, and they were first in line to help with this bid.”

“I believe the site selection committee appreciated that level of enthusiasm,” Gilbert adds. “When they’re making a decision on where to host the convention, it’s not just about picking a destination. It’s about building friendships and a level of trust that will allow everyone to work together for two years to bring their vision to life.”

“We didn’t get the convention because we’re in Ohio,” Gilbert says. “We got it because we’re a city that can deliver what the group needs.”

SEE ALSO: A Look Inside Cleveland’s Eco-friendly Convention Center

Cleveland wasn’t always in a position to deliver the capabilities necessary for a major convention, though.

“While we’ve tried to land a major political convention in the past, we weren’t a serious contender because we didn’t have the infrastructure,” Gilbert says.

Those days are a memory now. The Cleveland Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation opened last year (early and under budget). Between 2013 and the start of the RNC, the city will add seven new hotels within walking distance of Quicken Loans Arena and increase its downtown room supply by 2,000 rooms.

Meeting attendees, business travelers and leisure guests will have plenty to do outside those properties, too. A new casino, new aquarium and new contemporary art museum have all recently opened, and the next two years hold even more good news. From a $30 million makeover of the city’s downtown pedestrian-only Public Square to the Flats East Bank Redevelopment with new waterfront restaurants and entertainment venues, Cleveland has a wide range of reasons for celebration.

For Gilbert, the development projects and winning convention bid mean more than just facts and figures that will undoubtedly attract other big meetings and convention business to the city. Gilbert was born and raised in Cleveland. He attended college in his hometown and has served as one of the city’s biggest advocates even during a challenging rebuilding period. Today, he’s proud to look at all the progress.

“Cleveland has changed dramatically in the past three years,” Gilbert says. “There’s a different vibe and mojo in this city that hasn’t been here for decades.”

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To learn more about what Cleveland can do for your group, click here to visit the Positively Cleveland website.

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