Minnesota Operators Looking Forward to Republican Convention

LCT Staff
Posted on July 16, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS – Some Twin Cities entrepreneurs are looking to cash in on Republican delegates' apparent weakness – at least when compared to their Democratic counterparts – when it comes to convention souvenirs. "The numbers we've heard is that the average Republican convention guest purchases about $56 in 'memory' merchandise," said Pady Regnier, owner of St. Croix Promotions and Retail. "The average Democrat – about $9.80."

The Bloomington-based company that won the convention's souvenir contract plans to sell items like campaign buttons, elephant hats, cuff links and money clips. It hopes for gross revenues of $2 million when the Republican National Convention is held Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul.

St. Croix expects to sell more than 100,000 campaign buttons as well as T-shirts bearing a U.S. flag that could have flown during the last Republican convention that was held in Minnesota in 1982.

Besides souvenirs, entrepreneurs also will be making money on transportation.

"I would expect there will be close to 1,000 limousines (in town) at the time of the convention," says Brian Iversrud, owner of River City Limousine and president of the Minnesota Chauffeured Transportation Association.

The limousines will mostly come in the form of corporate sedans rather than stretch limos, he said. "They don't want to be too ostentatious," Iversrud said.

Corporate cars booked for the week can run $1,500 to $2,000, and Iversrud said he won't be surprised to see the limo industry gross about $1.5 million during the convention. Twin Cities hotels will gross an estimated $32 million during the convention, according to estimates by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Caterers say they have some big parties to prepare for, including one for Blue Cross and Blue Shield with 800 people and the Texas governor's ball with up to 1,000 people. Both of the parties are being catered by D'Amico Catering of Minneapolis, which has several other parties on its list.

"It's a lot of tenderloin, a lot of shrimp, a lot of butler-passed hors d'oeuvres, a lot of champagne, a lot of wine," said Larry D'Amico, the company's president.

But some companies offering hospitality services have been underwhelmed by convention bookings, including riverboat cruise operator Padelford Packet Boat Co. The company has booked three trips for the week of the convention, but it could handle as many as 40.

And in the end, it isn't clear how much money will really be made off the convention.

"Our analysis shows $162 million in gross state product gains," said Kirsten Morell, spokeswoman for the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

But state economist Tom Stinson says he's going to wait and see after state sales-tax figures come in for September. "There is always money to be made," Stinson said. "The question is, who makes it and whether there is a net increase or not. Certainly some individuals and firms and some institutions are going to do quite well, but others may not do as well as they would in a normal week."

Source: Associated Press

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