Business owners counting on an economic boost from September’s presidential debate expressed frustration last week after Wright State backed out of the event.
The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce previously estimated that the debate could deliver up to $25 million to the region’s economy.
Now, some business owners are wondering what could have been.
Shekira Kanemoto, assistant general manager of the Country Inn & Suites on Colonel Glenn Highway, said she cried when she heard Wright State withdrew from the debate. The hotel, which has 69 rooms, already had booked 59 of those for the week of the debate.
Kanemoto said one international news outlet almost immediately cancelled the 30 rooms they had booked. Though the hotel believes it will still fill rooms for other reasons, she said the university’s decision was a shock.
“It would’ve been great for Dayton,” she said. “It would’ve had a great economic impact.”
Kathleen Wright, executive director of the Greene County Convention & Visitors Bureau, expects hotels to be impacted most by the decision.
Several hotels turned away guests seeking rooms that week for weddings and military reunions. They’ll have to push to get some of those guests back.
“It does hurt,” she said. “It’s hard to say what the economic impact would’ve been. It’s like everything else — you just have to work harder. You can’t dwell on the past.”
Wright said she respected Hopkins’ decision to put the well-being of the community and students first.
Hotels aren’t the only businesses that are scratching plans for debate week. Don Massengale, owner of W.O. Wright’s Bar & Grill, planned presidential drink specials — red and blue.
He had themed signs printed for the debate, too. He threw them out Tuesday.
“I’ve been anticipating it ever since they made the announcement,” he said. “It’s just too bad. It looks like we couldn’t pull together as a community to make this happen.”
Yaffa Grill is located across the street from Wright State. Yasmine Mored, co-owner of the Mediterranean restaurant, said it seemed like the university didn’t try hard enough. It was the city’s chance to highlight the best of Dayton while starting a conversation, she said.
For Mike Bartolotta of Flying Pizza, it came down to another missed chance for Dayton. His question: “Why didn’t the state do more to keep the debate in Ohio?”
He said Ohio plays a pivotal role in the electoral process, and it only seemed right to host a debate here. As he poured sauce on a freshly kneaded pizza crust, Bartolotta shrugged his shoulders.
“We were counting on it,” he said. “We were expecting two weeks of business that we won’t get now.”
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