, , , , ,

From carpenters to cleaners: 2024 RNC wants help from local, statewide businesses

New vendor website launched this week for contracting with Milwaukee Host Committee

Republican National Convention announcement
At a press conference in Chicago, the Republican National Committee announced its 2024 convention will be held in Milwaukee. Evan Casey/WPR

The host committee for the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee is putting up the “help wanted” sign.

Organizers say they will need to recruit everything from cleaners to carpenters to caterers for event that’s expected to draw 50,000 people to the city in July next year. The group recently launched a website to connect with local vendors.

During a kickoff event for the website, Alison Prange, chief of staff and senior advisor for the Milwaukee 2024 Host Committee, said the website will help connect businesses across the Wisconsin with convention operators.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“Our goal with the vendor connection is to drive lasting economic impact across the greater Milwaukee area and the state of Wisconsin,” Prange said.

“With 50,000 people, there are going to be a lot of opportunities,” she added.

Prange said the host committee will reach out to businesses about opportunities “as they become available.” But the website will also be used to create a database for future events and conventions in the city.

Peggy Williams-Smith, CEO of Visit Milwaukee, said the city’s tourism bureau has seen an increase in interest from organizers of other events and conventions since the city landed the RNC last summer.

“The list of organizations gathered through the vendor connection website will help connect future large events with Milwaukee business … and ensure that the convention’s impact goes well beyond 2024,” Williams-Smith said.

The convention is expected to have a $200 million economic impact, according to some estimates. Hotels from Janesville to the south to Sheboygan to the north and Madison to the west will likely be used for the event.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson pushed for the convention to come to Milwaukee. On Thursday, he said the event will be an “incredible opportunity” for local businesses.

“I want for local businesses here in our city, here in our state, to be able to make money,” Johnson said. “I want them to be able to hire employees. I want them to be able to spread the benefits of having a big convention throughout our economy, locally.”

The number of businesses that will likely work with the convention are wide-ranging, Johnson said.

“If you’re a carpenter, if you’re a limo company, if you’re a caterer, if you print, if you plan, if you clean, if you offer any product or service that might be useful in or around the convention, please take this moment to sign up,” Johnson said about the website.

The event will be held at Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. Thursday’s kickoff event was held at Sherman Phoenix, a hub for Black entrepreneurs in Milwaukee.

“Milwaukee isn’t just downtown, it’s a huge city with diverse neighborhoods,” Prange said. “It’s important to showcase the businesses across the city.”

The framework agreement for the RNC says the host committee “shall use its best efforts to employ diverse and historically underutilized businesses within the City of Milwaukee to provide the services necessary to host the Convention.”

Diverse businesses are defined in the agreement as “woman-owned, minority person-owned, veteran-owned, disabled person-owned, or LGBTQ person-owned business.” The 2020 Democratic National Convention had a similar initiative, but that convention moved to a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want for businesses not just downtown, but diverse businesses, including those in the neighborhoods … to be able to engage,” Johnson said.

One business that could benefit is Kilwins Milwaukee-Bayshore, an LGBTQ+-owned confectionery chain. BJ Gruling, one of the owners of the business, said they plan to apply to be a vendor.

“I think it’s an exciting time. I think it’s good for the city, for Wisconsin,” Gruling said.

Gruling said Kilwins Milwaukee-Bayshore applied to be a vendor for the 2020 DNC as well.

“We’ll just stay on the business side of it, we won’t make it a political leaning business move,” Gruling added.