Conventional business won't be as usualby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
The upcoming Republican National Convention will present some serious challenges for employers in downtown St. Paul. By some estimates, about 45,000 people could be in town for the convention, making it hard to conduct business as usual in downtown St. Paul.
St. Paul, Minn. — The convention clearly poses potential risks for the Travelers insurance company, which is located across the street from Xcel Energy Center, where the convention takes place.
Travelers is losing one of its parking lots -- and a parking garage -- to the convention. And the streets around the Xcel and Travelers promise to get pretty jammed up when the convention gets rolling.
But Travelers is adjusting, and the company plans to remain open during the convention. Employees will be able to park in satellite lots elsewhere in or near downtown and take shuttles to and from work.
Officials expect some people will take time off. Others will telecommute. And Travelers is shifting its workday to start at five in the morning and end at two in the afternoon, before convention activity picks up.
"Another day at work with a lot more traffic and people in downtown St. Paul," said company spokeswoman Gail Liebl.
She said Travelers and convention planners have tried to consider every issue.
"They've thought through everything and safety of employees too," she said. "You name it. The parking--they've got the options for shuttling people back and forth. They're trying very hard to make sure our employees are not displaced in any way."
Other major downtown employers anticipate they'll be able to avoid any big convention-related disruptions.
Lawson Software expects minimal impact. Spokesman Joe Thornton said a good number of Lawson's 800 St. Paul employees will be taking time off that week or working from home.
"Since we're a technology company, telecommuting is very easy for people here, with laptops, Internet access and what not," he said. "Some of us will be working in downtown St. Paul. But we're really looking at who is essential in downtown St. Paul, who can telecommute and how can we help to minimize any disruption."
Some businesses expect to be fully staffed and keep regular hours during the convention.
U.S. Bank spokesman Steve Dale said it'll be business as usual for his company, which has major data processing, trust and banking operations in St. Paul.
"As far as the convention is concerned, we do not anticipate any change in our way of doing business," he said. "As a matter of fact, we will have our branches fully staffed so that we will be able to not only help the convention-goers but those individuals that live here and call St. Paul home every day."
Most downtown businesses and organizations, including city, county and state offices also expect to be open as usual during the convention.
The five hospitals in and around downtown St. Paul have taken steps to ensure patients and visitors will have ready access to them. The hospitals are securing parking spots and plotting alternative routes to get around any street shutdowns that may be coming.
"We don't expect there to be any dramatic problems here at the hospital because of what is going on," said Rick Huston, director of plant operations at Regions Hospital. "Our planning is more to just make sure we're here in the ready and that we can make sure we stay open and visitors can get to us."
But some key downtown institutions won't be keeping regular hours during the convention.
The James J. Hill Reference Library will close for walk-in service during the convention. The Children's Museum will scale back its hours. And the Science Museum will be closed altogether.
Science Museum spokeswoman Gail Vold Greco said the museum, which is across the street from the convention center, figured it would be too hard to stay open during the convention. So, the museum decided months ago to close and make its building available for convention events.
"Even as of now, there are still a lot of unknowns of exactly how transportation and security will affect our building and how it would have affected our visitors," Vold Greco said. "So, we decided early on to make that decision so that people could plan their visits and work around that."
While the city has disclosed plans to deal with a parking crunch downtown, much remains to be learned about how the city will cope with the convention. Still to be determined are the highway exit and entrance ramps to be closed and how Metro Transit buses will be rerouted around the convention center. Those plans should be revealed within a few weeks.
Here's what major downtown employers and institutions say about their plans during the convention:
Dorothy Day Center
Open as usual.
Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare Center
Open as usual.
James J. Hill Reference Library
Closed during convention for walk-in library service. All employees will report as usual to handle on-line services. Library will be rented for some events.
Company expects minimal disruption, as Lawson remains open for business. But a good number of employees will be taking time off or telecommuting.
Open during regular hours unless the center has a private event. The center will be hosting a new exhibit during the convention, called "From Freedom's Shadow." It highlights African-Americans and the U.S. Capitol.
Minnesota Children's Museum
Closed on Monday, September 1, Labor Day. Reduced hours (9 a.m. - 2 p.m.) Sept. 2 to 4.
Minnesota History Center
Closed to the public Sept. 1 to 4. The center will be used by the RNC for events and meetings during that time.
Hosting private convention-related events that will not be open to the public.
Offices will be open usual hours.
Open as usual.
St. Joseph's Hospital
Open as usual.
St. Paul City Offices
Open regular hours.
St. Paul Public Library (downtown branch)
Closed during the convention.
State of Minnesota
Offices will observe regular hours.
From Sept. 1 to 4, corporate offices will be open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Due to traffic concerns, employees will stagger their workdays and leave work by 2 p.m. Most employees will be using satellite parking lots.
- All Things Considered, 07/22/2008, 5:24 p.m.