Representatives from the city of Birmingham officially presented the city’s application to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016 today in Washington D.C. A lot of people feel that Birmingham is a long shot, but it is great that they are shooting for this opportunity. Hosting a convention can really spur growth within a city. Look no further than Charlotte in 2012 or Denver in 2008, which has held the last two DNCs. There was economic impact study done (accessible here) for Charlotte after the 2012 DNC, which shows the huge bump in revenues and improved infrastructural development. Birmingham has been steadily improving over recent years and repairing its image after its embarrassing bankruptcy filing.
The Charlotte DNC in 2012 saw a boost in employment, creating over 1400 full time positions. Visitor spending during the DNC totaled $34.5 million dollars…money that the city could definitely use. The convention also boosted Charlottes Gross Regional Product by $94 million. There is no reason that Birmingham residents should not be chomping at the bits to get this type of money to be spent in the Magic City. There was also a bump in population by over 100,000 people who moved to the Charlotte metro area after the DNC was held there. The increased tax revenues from new residents allows the city to continue its infrastructural improvements and continue to invest in other aspects.
Aside from the economic and infrastructural impacts, the biggest benefit for Birmingham if it wins would be to rebrand the city on a national level. Whenever people from all across the country here Birmingham, they automatically think of segregation, Bull Connor, and children being shot with fire hoses in the streets. Although that was 50 years ago, the city still lives with the image looming over its head. However, Birmingham is nothing like it was 50 years ago. It has been making huge improvements and is one of the hidden gems in the South. Having a national party convention here would help bring attention to the city and help change the image of the city to one of a city that is progressing and improving. There is not a price that you could put on this benefit.
Why would the Democratic National Convention Committee ever choose Birmingham to host the DNC? First and foremost because Birmingham is about as solid blue as you can get in the South. The city is traditionally liberal and having the DNC here would be the first steps to reviving the almost non-existent Democratic Party in Alabama. If you look at the Alabama primaries earlier this week, a lot of Democratic ballots were essentially empty. The party has had trouble recruiting candidates that resonate with Alabama voters. Having a national convention here would boost interest in the party and possibly help recruit viable candidates.
What about the competing cities? Birmingham is one of six cities competing to host the 2016 DNC, with Phoenix, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, and Columbus Ohio being the others. It is hard to see any political benefit of the DNCC choosing New York or Philadelphia. Phoenix and Columbus both applied to host the RNC as well, but both were denied. It is hard to see the DNCC going somewhere that they were the second choice to be. So it comes down to either Cleveland or Birmingham. Cleveland is obviously a much larger city, but economically it is in a similar situation as Birmingham. They could make the same arguments as the Magic City.
I think in the end, it will come down to one of these cities. As of right now, I would give the edge to Cleveland simply because Ohio is such a pivotal swing state in elections. However, if Parker Griffith can steal the Governorship from Robert Bentley, I could see the DNCC looking at that as an encouraging sign.