Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Businesses Pitch Republicans

300 businesses at Baird Center seek customers and contacts for 2024 convention.

By - Aug 23rd, 2023 04:18 pm
Jolie Kadima-Brox (right) and husband Robert Brox, owners of Fit4YouMKE, showcase their Lavender Lemonade at MKE 2024 vendor fair. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Jolie Brox (right) and husband Robert Brox, owners of Fit4YouMKE, showcase their Lavender Lemonade at MKE 2024 vendor fair. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Republican presidential candidates will make their pitch to voters Wednesday night, but Milwaukee businesses are already selling Republicans on what they can offer during the 2024 Republic National Convention.

The approximately 7,000 people who scored a ticket for Wednesday’s debate needed to visit the Baird Center to pick up their credentials, and, in doing so, were led into a MKE 2024 vendor fair in the convention hall.

Three hundred different businesses and organizations, many offering food or other gifts, made their pitch to attendees with the hope of landing business for the July 2024 convention. Participants ran the gamut from The Bartolotta Restaurants to Pizza Shuttle.

“The idea is we wanted to feature all of the local businesses here,” said host committee chair Reince Priebus at a press conference promoting the fair. The hope is that party leaders from other states, many of whom are attending the debate, could engage as many local businesses as possible when they return in 2024. “If you’re coming from the state of Illinois or California and you come to Milwaukee, you’re planning out your entire week for hundreds of people from your state.” Fifty thousand people are expected to attend the convention.

From their booths Wednesday afternoon, vendors talked up their service offerings. Event production companies like Majic Productions showcased their offerings alongside transportation providers like Go Riteway, event venues such as Central Standard Craft Distillery, signage vendor Signs & Lines by Stretch, caterers like Tall Guy & A Grill, restaurants such as Pepperpot and popsicle company Pete’s Pops.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the event was an example of why he’s supported bringing the Republican National Convention to Milwaukee. “Walk around this fair. You’ll see businesses from all across Milwaukee. Literally, every single aldermanic district is represented here,” said the mayor. He said it was an economic opportunity that would create jobs for all Milwaukeeans and help grow the city.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel highlighted the diversity of vendors, including that 48 are minority-owned and 45 are woman-owned.

A number of prominent Wisconsin Republicans could be spotted walking through the fair, including host committee CEO Ted Kellner, chief of staff Alison Prange, state party chair Brian Schimming and Wisconsin Election Commission vice chair Robert Spindell. VISIT Milwaukee CEO Peggy Williams-Smith was in the crowd, with the VISIT team omnipresent throughout the event.

Republican National Committee arrangements committee chair Anne Hathaway, who leads the convention for the national party, and convention general chairman Ron Kaufman both attended the press conference. Hathaway, who will lead a meeting to select the 2028 convention host while in the city, said Milwaukee was an easy choice to host the 2024 convention. She didn’t mention that by the end of the process, it was the only bidder after Nashville’s legislative arm voted against hosting the event.

A stream of attendees filtered in and out of the fair, even as the press conference took place. Vendors reported that they were generating promising leads.

But Milwaukee businesses may need to vet who they offer their services to. Even the debate is drawing a notable amount of protest activity, some of which has been targeted at businesses that were rumored as hosts for certain conservative groups.

As Urban Milwaukee was leaving, a group of women wearing Moms for America t-shirts entered. The pro-Trump group was a co-sponsor of the March to Save America that resulted in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Another group, Moms for Liberty, has engendered substantial opposition from the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and others for attempting to host events in advance of the debate. The opposition, often targeted at the host venues or caterers, led to a series of cancellations and changes affecting when and where the group would meet.

Debate watchers have something to listen for. The press conference featured the Republican leaders offering their now well-trodden praise for Milwaukee and its mayor, a Democrat. But will the candidates be as generous, or will they revert to the common refrain of attacking “Democrat-run cities?”


Press Conference

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More about the 2024 RNC

Read more about 2024 RNC here

Categories: Business, Politics

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