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What Did The DNC Really Do For Colorado?

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Alan Gionet Good Question
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DENVER (CBS4) – The mess is long gone. The traffic, the people, the attention. Wait, we miss the attention. At least some of it. Remember the perfect weather? Remember all the beauty shots of the city on TV? The 2008 Democratic National Convention consumed the city and the country in the final week of August last year.

The nomination of Barack Obama was history enough. The first convention in 100 years in Denver was an undertaking that cost millions, but was worth every bit if you ask Mayor John Hickenlooper.

“The rest of the country looked at Denver and they said wow,” said Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper says the convention ultimately brought in $260 million of economic benefit. That’s far greater than the $160 million that was forecast. But even then he thinks there was more to it.

“All this stuff got fed into the organic mulch maker that is the media and got spread far and wide,” he said.

Not the first time we in the media have been accused of producing organic matter. What matters for cities trying to burnish their image as world-class cities is the sort of focus that came with the convention.

“You just can’t measure that incredibly high wattage media attention,” Hickenlooper said.

Steve Weil of Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo was a bit nervous about what might be coming prior to the convention last year. His business did extremely well in August and September last year when there was another convention in town. He thinks the convention was a home run.

“Because this city shone like diamond all kinds of public works projects were hastened and City Park was cleaned up,” Weil said.

Millions rolled in for improvements that have stayed with the city like the dollars for emergency services. Hickenlooper says long-term hotel bookings done months and years ahead of time rose. He also says there’s been an increase in inquiries from businesses that want to talk about a possible move to Denver.

“I think Denver’s been better off economically for the last year because those conventions were booked and people are coming when tourism is down,” Weil said. “There were people who’ve never been here before who came and found us.”

There’s another belief floating around.

“I think the president knows where we are and I think that’s important to a lot of our projects that we’re trying to get funded,” said one woman downtown.

That’s hard to prove.

“I think it was a wash,” said Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams. He’s skeptical of the economic benefit. “I don’t think it was some economic boom to Denver and Colorado … conventions by nature suck the oxygen out of the room for months leading up to them.”

Still Wadhams was and is a convention supporter.

“You can’t convince me that the stuff that was crowded out by the convention didn’t offset the huge amount of money that came to Colorado during the convention. But once again I don’t think that means we shouldn’t have had the convention,” Wadhams said.

Denver’s democratic mayor likes the idea of the Republicans coming to town. But not so fast.

“I think we need to digest a little bit,” said Hickenlooper. “We’d have to apply next year if we’re going to go after the Republican National Convention in 2012 … I’d be ready to do it. I’m not sure that the rest of the city and the rest of the metropolitan area have quite recovered.”

– Written by Alan Gionet

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