Presidential Visits Impact Local Economies
By Jill Kasparie, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS – From spending money to making money a presidential visit can get the dollars flowing.
Since January, Iowans have watched President Barack Obama come and go five times. During this visit he stayed overnight in Cedar Rapids at the Marriott before wrapping up his three-day campaign tour across Iowa on Wednesday.
From time to time, the Commander In Chief decides to stop at a few local businesses or eat food from a local eatery. When the president came to Cedar Rapids in January, Maid Rite cooked up several pounds of meat for the president and his crew.
Workers delivered the loose meat sandwiches, baked beans and potato salad to Conveyor Engineering where the president spoke to a crowd of people. After that meal, Owner Jim Hanson saw an increase in business of about 10 percent for about two months.
"Long term, I think people who came in that time [said], 'Oh, I thought it was pretty good food so we'll come back.' So I think it reminded people that we were in business and then later, there was kind of a long term affect that, 'Oh, that was good food so we'll go back again.'" Hanson said.
The City of Cedar Rapids, on the other hand, saw money flow out of their bank accounts when the president decided to stay overnight in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. Sgt. Cristy Hamblin with the Cedar Rapids Police Department said President Obama likely stayed in the City of Five Seasons because of the resources and equipment the police department has to help protect the president.
According to Cedar Rapids Public Works Director Craig Hanson, the visit will cost his department $15,000 to $18,000 worth of labor. His crew installed snow fences and deployed a fleet of about fifty trucks around the Marriott. Both were used to help provide protection. Hanson said the fuel to bring the trucks to the hotel and drive them home will add up to anywhere between $200 to $400. Workers will take down the fence and return the trucks to the shop Wednesday after the president departs for Dubuque.
City Spokeswoman Cassie Willis said the city would not seek reimbursement for the money spent to host the president overnight. She said the city has charged for similar events in the past, but has decided not to seek reimbursement for this visit.
The economy and economic impact is one topics that's on President Obama’s mind during his Iowa visits. He spoke about the middle class in Waterloo on Tuesday and is expected to talk more about it when he stops in Dubuque. Local Economic leaders said they see these stops as an opportunity to take advantage of the national attention for our own economy.
"Issues related to ethanol, wind power, a lot of those things are sort of uniquely Iowa or unique to the Midwest economy, here we get the president of the United State or somebody running for president or somebody running for other high office to actually come and care,” said Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s Doug Neumann.
The president will leave Cedar Rapids Wednesday morning. He will head to Dubuque where he'll begin speaking at around 12:30 p.m.
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