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RNC 2020 expected to boost Charlotte economy $163 million

Not only did the 2012 DNC under-deliver, both the 2016 RNC and DNC came in below projections, too.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Money remains one of the biggest selling points for bringing the RNC to Charlotte but we can all learn a lesson from past conventions. And it starts by looking in the mirror. 

Not only did the 2012 DNC under-deliver, both the 2016 RNC and DNC came in below projections, too. 

"For those who want to see our city grow and strengthen, and create more jobs and more hospitality and tourism, this is an absolute win-win," said John Lassiter, CEO of the RNC Host Committee.

The national spotlight, the excitement, and the money are being called a rare opportunity by the host committee. And there's no doubt the convention will provide an economic boost for hotels, taxis, and caterers, but beyond that, skeptics say there won't be a significant impact.

"The word of caution is that everybody's not going to get rich out of this," said UNC Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig. "It's not like there's money going to be raining down on everybody and making a huge difference in the city economy."

Heberlig supports bringing the convention here, but he believes the dollars are secondary. 

"It's really about marketing the city, helping our reputation," said Heberlig. 

He says economic impact projections are often inflated in an effort to get everyone on board. Take the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, for example. Businesses close to the convention felt a positive bump thanks to the $164 million economic impact, but others walked away disappointed. 

Some previously suggested that convention would bring up to a quarter of a billion dollars to Charlotte. It didn't. The 2012 DNC came up $86 million short of those estimates. 

Cleveland and Philadelphia's conventions in 2016 also performed below expectations. At the RNC in Cleveland, the $142 to $188 million impact was well below the projection of $200 million. The DNC in Philadelphia was even more off. What was once expected to pull in $350 million had a $230 million economic impact. 

"We don't project future economic impact because you really want to have all the facts before you get it," said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. 

Murray said the CRVA has played it cautiously, hoping the 2020 RNC at least matches the city's historic number of $163 million from 2012. 

"We expect to be in that range if not bigger," Murray said. 

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