The DNC's Impact on Business: "Homerun of All Homeruns"

August 2008

First things first when it comes to gushing about how great the Democratic National Convention was for business in Denver. "It's anecdotal," says Rich Grant, a spokesman for the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. Still, to Grant and a large number of city leaders, it was "the homerun of all homeruns" for business. It seems the cheerleaders are right, and the sky-is-falling press got it wrong. But just to be sure the daily crush of delegates, celebrities, activists, tourists, buskers, and others translated into ka-ching, I called one of the city's best measures of pedestrian traffic: LoDo's Tattered Cover Bookstore, at 1628 16th Street. "Yes," indeed, the store saw "nice bumps" in sales each day, it rented some space, and, oh, don't forget book sales the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a signing event, says Heather Duncan, the store's marketing director, eager to share more. Erza Swartwood, the banquet captain for Baur's Ristorante at 1512 Curtis Street, says business in the casual but elegant establishment was "quadruple" the norm. No, he corrects himself. "Quintuple."

While Cherry Creek North wasn't exactly as mad as downtown's boisterous throng, it was still livelier than normal, says Julie Bender, the business improvement district's president and CEO. Though this week is typically the slowest of the year for the district's cozy and upscale shops, Cathy Covell of Lawrence Covell clothing, 225 Steele Street, witnessed "some additional traffic," although she notes most people seemed bound for the restaurants and bars. Now, before we get carried away in these challenging economic times, let's come back to that anecdotal part. Sales-tax figures won't come rolling in to confirm whether the convention was a money winner for several months. For now, the Grants and Benders of the Mile-High City are left musing about the impact of intangibles, such as all those cameras broadcasting panoramic shots of our fine city and its mountain backdrop. Proof? The visitor's bureau, Grant says, supplied "hundreds" of television news organizations around the world with touristy stock footage. There were also countless newspaper and magazine articles, many written in advance of the convention, keeping Denver front-and-center for months. Bender fires off a few--The New York Times, USA Today, Town & Country, and the motherload Vanity Fair. While there's no handy formula showing such attention directly impacts a city's economy, it can't hurt. In fact, it might be better than advertising. As Bender says, "You can't buy that kind of media."

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