My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a taste:
Milwaukee has always struggled to consistently attract convention business, but with this new expansion of the Wisconsin Center, the WCD is hoping to change that dynamic. The expansion will expand the Wisconsin Center to 300,000 square feet of contiguous space. It will also add 24 additional meeting rooms and at least 400 indoor parking spaces. Finally, the WCD will add six loading docks, an executive kitchen, and a ballroom that will seat at least 2,000 people for dinner.
Unfortunately for the WCD, there is very little to support the supposition that the reason that Milwaukee has not been able to attract a substantial number of conventions is because the convention center is too small. The convention center has been expended over the years and the results remain the same. The reason that Milwaukee does not attract many conventions is because it’s Milwaukee.
Downtown Milwaukee is lovely and boasts a handful of fun attractions, but there just isn’t enough there to compete with so many other cities contending for convention business. When you couple the meager attractions with runaway crime, an inhospitable city government, and the long, brutal winters, the WCD has always been overly optimistic about the prospects of turning Milwaukee into a destination city for conventions. Furthermore, nobody is really sure if the pandemic- collapsed convention business will ever fully bounce back. Businesses have found other ways to market their wares, and some may never return to their previous convention spending.