Twin Cities in Spotlight for Republican National Convention

The last time the Republican National Convention came to the northern state of Minnesota was in 1892. Benjamin Harrison was the Republican nominee for President of the United States. More than a century later on 1 September 2008, Minnesota is once again hosting the Republican nominating convention in what are known as the 'Twin Cities' - Minneapolis and St. Paul. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports, even though the convention itself takes place in the state capitol of St. Paul, the city is sharing security responsibilities and economic benefits with its neighboring cities and states.

When Republicans looked at possible locations to host their National Convention this year, Host Committee President Cyndi Lescher admits St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center was the biggest selling point to win the honor. "Obviously the facility with the adjacency of the RiverCentre," she said. "The infrastructure to make it happen, hotel and venues, and the spirit of the host committee."

Putting on a convention is an economic windfall for a host city, which sees an influx of cash and people like Joanne Burgos, Press Secretary for the Republican National Convention. She says she started planning this year's big event in 2006.

"Some of us have been living here for 18 months," Burgos said. "We really have become a part of the community and a big emphasis for us was to boost the local economy. During the four days of the convention, we expect to pump in $160 million."

That is in addition to the $50 million federal grant awarded to the city of St. Paul to help pay for extra security needed in and around the convention site. The Federal Election Fund also contributed $17 million towards convention spending.

But the money benefits more than just the city of St. Paul.

Across the river 16 kilometers away stands Minneapolis, a city that also stands to gain as much from the convention as St. Paul. Travis Bunch is with the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. "When we learned that the region was going to get the RNC [Republican National Convention], even though most people associate it with St. Paul, we knew that it was really going to be the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis St. Paul and Bloomington area," Bunch said.

Most hotels in the downtown Minneapolis St. Paul area, are already booked for the convention, and restaurant reservations are filling up quick.

While the short-term benefit is an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars of cash into the local economy, Travis Bunch is focused on the long-term benefits. "I think hopefully what we'll see as the real benefit from this is the opportunity to promote the region and try to get workers to come relocate here, try to get more visitors to come and be a tourist here, and try to get businesses to maybe look at MSP [Minneapolis-St. Paul] as a potential opportunity to expand their business and relocate their business too," he said.

While the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are engaging in a friendly competition to take in cash spread around during convention time, the national spotlight is also on another city in another state. Denver, Colorado takes the political stage first by hosting the Democratic National Convention a week before the Republican gathering.

That doesn't bother Cyndi Lesher, who insists there is no rivalry or competition between the convention cities, "Only the media seem to care about that," Lesher said. "We're just focused on putting on a great convention in Minneapolis St. Paul and that's what were all about."

One roadblock that could stand in the way of Lescher's hopes for a great convention is the large number of protestors expected.

Minneapolis is sending about 550 policemen to join 500 St. Paul police personnel to help maintain security at the convention. Police from other towns and even some other states will be assigned, for a total of 3,500.


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