"I think when we look back 10 years, 20 years from now, they will say this is where Tampa turned the corner, we had our introduction to the world stage and we danced like we never danced before," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a business audience this past summer.
Only time will tell if the mayor's thoughts will pan out, but a new survey shows that after the convention, there was an 18 percent increase in positive perception of the Tampa Bay area. The survey interviewed 1,200 delegates, attendees and reporters, most of whom had little to no knowledge about the area before the RNC.
The survey was conducted by the San Diego-based Market Enhancement Group and done on behalf of the Tampa Bay Partnership, which held a press conference at its Westshore area headquarters on Tuesday morning to present the survey.
The report measured perceptions about the Tampa Bay regional brand based on 27 key attributes, ranging from taxes, cost of living, weather, proximity to beaches, and air quality.
One of the most important attributes that undoubtedly the partnership and others examined closely was, "A region I would like to work in or relocate and/or expand a business to." Barry Quarles with Market Enhancement Group said the response to the pre-convention survey was one of the weakest, but had one of the strongest improvements after the fact.
Quarles narrated his presentation via speakerphone from Southern California. He said of the 1,200 interviewed a few weeks before the RNC, only 12 percent had visited Tampa Bay for business purposes, and just 19 percent had come down for recreation. He said there was "measurable or major improvement on 15 of the 27 attributes, and no decreases."
Translated? Tampa wasn't as bad as some people thought it would be.
The 1,200 interviewed included 200 delegates, 400 reporters (100 from the foreign press), and 600 convention attendees, who were later defined as lobbyists, trade group members, and "politically active individuals."
There was lots of talk about getting a "multiplier" effect from the positive post-RNC perceptions.
Has it brought any new business?
Doug McClain with Tampa Bay and Company said his group has three strong leads that have come out of the convention.
"One convention means millions of dollars for this destination. So while it's three leads, it's millions of dollars in the pipeline," he said.
Stuart Rogel with the Tampa Bay Partnership said he will use the information from the survey to help present a message going forward.
"We're going to break it down a little more. And we've got all the cross-tabs, and by region, and by the different audiences, and by age group, and see what the differences were to see how to shape that message in different ways to different audiences."
During the convention, The Tampa Bay Partnership put a lot of resources into a web-TV show called Front Row Tampa Bay. Recently, Rogel had an interesting Q-and-A session with the Tampa Bay Business Journal's Alexis Mueller about the endeavor's success.
The RNC host committee is commissioning its own economic study on how much the convention brought into the Bay area, which is due out early next year. Recently, host committee CEO Ken Jones said he expects the final number to be approximately $170 million.