COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The Georgia GOP Convention is set to start Friday and as many as 2,000 delegates and thousands of others are set to check in to downtown Columbus.
Mayor Skip Henderson says this event will be the most significant in Columbus since the pandemic.
The convention could bring up to $1.5 million dollars to the Fountain City in direct economic impact, according to Dr. Deb Kidder, dean of the Turner College of Business & Technology.
“That’s just the direct economic impact of $1 spent by a delegate who comes to Columbus,” Kidder told WRBL. “But that doesn’t include the multiplier effect for every dollar spent directly.”
Kidder calls the direct impact amount a conservative estimate and explains the multiplier that could have a lingering impact.
“For instance, someone that is being given overtime pay,” Kidder said. “They then take their kids out for a treat. And that means that $1 spent in overtime pay multiplies and adds to the local economy.”
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson says that the GOP event, which is attracting three presidential candidates including former President Donald Trump, is a chance for Columbus to make a positive impact on the visitors.
“People who may not have been to Columbus in a long time, who normally start there, their remarks about Columbus with the phrase, ‘I had no idea,'” Henderson said. “And we’ll see some of those people come back with their families. We’ll see them discover Columbus for what it is, which is an incredible in-state visit, opportunity, and a chance for a short vacation.”
That is the way that Ed Wolverton, president of Uptown Columbus Inc., is looking at it, as well.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to bring statewide leaders together and even some national leaders together into the community,” Wolverton said. “Even though this is the Georgia State Republican Convention, they have not been to Columbus in quite a while. They typically have been meeting in other locations. So, the fact that our Trade Center, headed by Haley Tillery, has been able to recruit them here, bring them to the area, is going to be a great introduction.”
And it’s about planting seeds for future tourism dollars.
“To be able to plant in their minds that, hey, there is an alternative to going to some of the other cities that they may have visited in the past,” Henderson said. “And I think that’s going to linger for a long time.”
For the Pezold companies that own three downtown hotels and a couple of restaurants, it’s a big deal. The company owns the Marriot, across the street from the convention hall, and the Hampton Inn as well as City Mills Hotel. They also own restaurants including the Cannon Brew Pub and the Millhouse Kitchen and Bar at City Mills.
“This gives us the opportunity to touch more people,” said Cassie Myers, director of marketing for the Pezold Companies. “It gives us the opportunity to put more heads in beds and to serve more people. We can bring more people to the community and see a greater economic impact. If we have more hotel rooms for people to stay. It makes. I’m sure Haley will tell you it makes her job a lot easier if she’s got more hotel rooms so that she can bring bigger conventions.”
In addition to City Mills Hotel and the Hampton Inn, two other downtown hotels have opened in the last couple of years, the riverfront Hotel Indigo and the AC Hotel on Broadway.
“We have not really had the number of hotel rooms needed to support a group like this,” Wolverton said. “Now we do, and that’s a big reason why they’re coming, is that, in fact, we can house them now in our urban campus.”
And the convention-goers and others will literally see a downtown still under construction.
The W.C. Bradley Company has a two-crane constriction site three blocks down from the Trade Center and across the street from the Hotel Indigo. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on a mixed-use development.
“Many of the delegates are going to see that kind of activity here, and we’re hoping that they’re going to come away with a good impression that Columbus is, in fact, a thriving community as Georgia’s second-largest city,” Wolverton said.
The GOP convention starts at 2 p.m. Friday. You can go to WRBL.com and see the speaker schedule. It ends Saturday afternoon.