Republican National Convention Made Tampa Its Big Winner, Analyst Claims

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: September 5, 2013 10:50 AM

Republican National Convention Tampa-official store

Credit: Ralf-Finn Hestoft

The count-up after the 2012 Republican National Convention ended in a high-five fest for members of the Tampa Bay Host Committee, who claim the eight counties involved pulled in $214 million from direct spending alone.

But University of South Florida economist Philip Porter says the GOP celebration is all poppycock; that, if anything, the convention's impact went in a more southerly direction. 

All you have to do is compare August 2011 to August 2012 sales, Porter told the Tampa Bay Times in a story reported Tuesday. In Hillsborough sales rose 5.83 percent -- less than the 6.31 percent in the rest of Florida.

"... It is apparent that the RNC did not stimulate economic activity in Hillsborough County,” he said.

Ridiculous, responded the host committee's hired gun on economic analysis, Brian T. Kench. The University of Tampa Economics Department chairman not only stands by the positive $214 million "direct" economic impact, he insists the total climbs to $404 million when a ”multiplier” effect of people spending and respending all that money is factored in.

Kench said Porter only looked at taxable sales, but the host committee's study analyzes gross sales -- and gross sales include nontaxable sales, which means a wider range of economic activity.

"Many services are not taxed,” Kench said in an email to the Times.

So, who is right, Porter or Kench? Was the 2012 RNC an economic boon or a bust?

Political analyst and conservative talk-radio host Joel Williams told Sunshine State News, "Phil Porter is famous for underestimating economic impacts. World Series, Super Bowls, you name it, he's got one way of doing the math, the rest of the world has another. It's not a matter of Phil showing his party colors, it's just how he sizes it up -- he's been making financial analyses of big events the same way for years."

Williams admitted, however, that there were some impediments in Tampa to an economic bonanza, despite the 50,000 visitors. For example, Tropical Storm Isaac closed in just as conventioneers were arriving, delaying the big event a day. And, with protestors threatening, a heavy police presence on local streets around the convention center was unwelcoming, not only to out-of-towners, but to locals who worked hard to avoid the area.

"Look, the reason I'm happy to weigh into this discussion now," said Williams, "is because it doesn't matter whose counting house, Porter's or Kench's, was right or wrong. Tampa won. Tampa won big-time. The positive PR the region got on major TV networks, not just across the country but around the world, is priceless. Money can't buy it."

Said Williams, "All this squabbling is over pennies when you consider what Tampa showed the world. Like Mayor (Bob) Buckhorn said, the  convention gave us a chance to say 'Hey, look at us, we can handle anything you bring.'"

The convention host committee put up $55 million for the event, but some $291.5 million spent on infrastructure improvement came from the private sector.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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