1,500 businesses ready to do business when RNC rolls into Milwaukee in 2024

Posted at 9:34 AM, Nov 15, 2023

We are getting a clearer view of what businesses can expect when the Republican National Convention rolls into Milwaukee next summer.

1,500 have already signed up through the host committee's vendor connection portal.

When Republicans gather at Fiserv Forum on July 15, Bobby Wiltgen, owner of Airbnb's, bars and restaurants, knows he's going to be busy, so he wants to be prepared.

"The security zone creates a lot of dynamic issues," said Cream City Concepts owner Wiltgen. "How are we going to get the product in? How are we going to get the staff in? Where are they going to stay? How early are we going to have to go?"

Wiltgen is part of the Westown Association. He was at the event I moderated with key people who can help answer those questions. Many want to know what will be the security perimeter around the convention and when will they know it?

"I know there will be more towards the early part of next year," said Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman. "We are going to have a solidified footprint so that we can have communication about whether you are inside or outside the perimeter."

The economic impact is huge and so are expectations in landing business with the convention. The Host Committee's Alison Prange says many vendors have already signed up through their portal.

"I’m happy to share 1,500 area businesses - some national but very few - have become a part of that portal," said Prange. "Of the vendor groups that we have, 30% of the businesses that we have in the portal are diverse, whether that's minority-owned, women-owned, LGBTQ or disabled veterans."

Convention CEO Elise Dickens expects to have hotel assignments for delegates in March and April - which will set up more opportunities for local businesses.

"On any given day there are hundreds of events going on, not just sponsored by RNC or Host Committee said Dickens. It's all types of groups coming to town and will want to host folks."

Mayor Johnson says the city will be ready to shine when tens of thousands of visitors arrive.

"The fact that the Republican National Convention coming into a brand new and expanded Baird Center - that is a shiny new addition to our city," said Johnson.

The Baird Center is expected to host many meetings, parties, and other events during the weeklong convention.