Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Will DNC Convention Help Small Businesses?

Common Council seeks ways to spread economic impact beyond Downtown.

By - Apr 25th, 2019 05:01 pm
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

The Milwaukee Common Council wants to ensure that many of the city’s small businesses and residents benefit from the July 2020 Democratic National Convention.

“Getting the Democratic National Convention is a huge win for the city, but that win has to be felt by the whole city,” said Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs at a meeting of the council’s Steering and Rules Committee. “One of our ways we can make sure of that is to keep our eye on the ball from the beginning.”

“Although we see the benefits, there are quite a few people in our community that feel it’s only going to benefit downtown hotels,” said Coggs. The event, according to organizers, is expected to draw 50,000 people and create a $200 million economic impact.

The alderwoman already partnered with other council members and the Department of City Development‘s Commercial Corridor Team to host an event for Business Improvement District and Neighborhood Improvement District leaders. Kenneth Little, who leads the DCD team, said the event drew 101 attendees and served as a good start for the effort.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” said city grants administrator Steve Mahan. “I have been talking to a number of my peers in other cities, mainly Cleveland because Cleveland did it pretty good,” said Mahan. Cleveland hosted the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The city, which is able to enforce hiring and procurement requirements in its own contacts, will be involved in law enforcement and security contracting, but not a lot of other contracting. A host committee will handle most of the procurement. “We talk about community benefits, and that sounds nice, but as a practical matter is that embedded in the host contract?” asked Alderman Robert Bauman.

“We don’t have all the answers now. We’re still exploring,” said Little.

Mahan said two Assistant City Attorneys are working with the host committee. A request for proposals for a variety of products and services will come after the host committee hires an executive director, Mahan added.

Coggs said it was important not to pursue just official business, but work to secure business from what she said is an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 other events that will happen around the official convention at Fiserv Forum.

“It behooves us to get our stuff right and get everybody that’s possible to the table, because once they [the host committee] takes over the show is going to happen,” said Mahan.

Mahan said one of the key things the city is working on is helping small businesses to be bonded, which will be required to bid on any contracts. “Putting up that $3,000 bond is the difference between doing the work and not doing the work,” he said. He promised that a plan was forthcoming.

Businesses looking to get involved are recommended to attend the City of Milwaukee’s 10th annual Small Business Conference on April 29th. Mahan noted that the free conference, which already has 250 reservations, would connect business leaders with city officials who could answer their questions about the DNC and other conventions.

Businesses interested in working with the DNC are also encouraged to call Ken Little’s team at (414) 286-5617.

“After having this, some of the larger conventions in the nation are now available for us to bid for,” said the optimistic Mahan.

But Bauman wasn’t so sanguine. “I don’t want to create a false impression that if they sign up with Ken Little they’re going to be in a pipeline to get all this work,” said the alderman. Coggs said that’s why she wanted to start the discussion so early.

Businesses and individuals looking to get involved in the DNC can read our earlier guide, 4 Ways To Get Involved In DNC, which includes a link to the official business registration form with the host committee.

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Related Legislation: File 181810

More about the DNC

Read more about DNC here

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