Al Austin talks about what it will take for Tampa to host the 2012 Republican National Convention

He also said that "we don't want outsiders - Democratic party demonstrators..who knows what..where they can be disruptive."

Austin says that he already has 15,000 hotel rooms already "locked down," all within 45 minutes of the St. Pete Times Forum.  He said that Harbour Island will be completely locked down security wise, and those who live on the Island will require special access and credentials to be admitted onto it.

Austin spoke expansively about how special Tampa is, and how he expects the convention to go so well that the city could very well host it again in 2016.  He called it "the largest business opportunity to ever come to the Tampa Bay area."  The GOP Convention in St. Paul reportedly brought in $170 million to the local economy back in '08.  Austin says it could go higher in Tampa.

Although Austin says his group is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and must be nonpartisan, the lifelong Republican couldn't help himself on a few occasions.  Boasting about how the event will be great for Tampa, he mentioned how so many corporate executives will be around for the week, "this is a state that has a right to work law, so you don't have to worry about unions," he said.

He said the goal overall is  $150 million for the event, and says he hopes his group will raise $50-60 million (he says he's close to having raised $10 million already).  The inveterate fundraiser says that this is one event in which people want to financially contribute to the cause.  Homeland Security will provide $50 million for security.

Also in attendance at the luncheon were several GOP local candidates, such as mayoral candidate Rose Ferlita and city council candidates Scott Strepina and Joe Citro.  Recently elected State Senator Jack Latvala also made the trip to Tampa.  His District 16 seat covers parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Tampa will be hosting the 2012 Republican National Convention in 647 days, and the way that Al Austin describes it, he'll need every one of them to make sure that everything is ready to go by the time the GOP descends upon the St. Pete Times Forum to nominates their presidential ticket for 2012.

Austin is the chairman of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee, the group responsible for raising the money to put on the RNC, as well as coordinate logistics with law enforcement agencies to provide security for the event.  Austin spoke on Thursday at the Downtown Republican Club of Tampa's luncheon at Jackson Bistro on Harbour Island.

Austin says that some 15,000 reporters will be attending throughout the world to cover the event, and will be filing their reports from the Tampa Convention Center, which the host committee must pay for.  Austin asked CEO for the committee Ken Jones, "Is it 52 days?" in reference to how much days the convention will clear out its schedule for convention reporters. The host committee must compensate the convention center for all of their lost revenue during that period.

Austin says there will be plenty of opportunities for people to volunteer - he's looking for 10,000 or so to help out, especially for those people to help all of the delegates and others arriving at TIA during convention week.  And he'll be hiring some people as well, including one person whose job will be to handle VIP's, "because when people give that kind of money, they expect something in return."

For those who question the idea that money doesn't equate to access to politicians, Austin is ready to set them straight.

He said those people that are interested in access to the powerful people who will be in town: all of the nation's governors, as well as every GOP Senator and Congressmen, all hitting Tampa Bay for the ultimate political party of the year.  Austin said there will be 60-70 receptions and parties/meals throughout Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater that last week of August of 2012 as well.

"People that want access to those governors, those senators, those congressmen, this is the best place they're ever going to get people from 50 states ....that's why they understand the importance of giving a lot, so they'll be in a position to meet all these people in a short amount of time and let them know of their support."

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.