By the Num­bers

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

Money is power, both per­son­ally and po­lit­i­cally, and the Na­tional Gay and Les­bian Chamber of Com­merce at­tempts to quan­tify how much rev­enue LGBT-owned busi­nesses cre­ate, and how they im­pact com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try by re­leas­ing a re­port called “Amer­ica’s LGBT Econ­omy.”

In At­lanta, there are 44 en­ter­prises that are at least 51 per­cent LGBT-owned and reg­is­tered in the Chamber’s study. Dan Dun­lop, vice pres­i­dent of the At­lanta Gay and Les­bian Chamber of Com­merce, says that num­ber is both un­der­re­ported and grow­ing.

“That’s just self-re­port­ing, we know that it’s a much, much higher num­ber, it’s prob­a­bly sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­re­ported,” Dun­lop said, adding that the At­lanta Chamber works ac­tively to get more com­pa­nies to par­tic­i­pate in the next sur­vey.

Dun­lop said in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, be­ing able to show that LGBT-owned busi­nesses cre­ate at least 33,000 jobs with an es­ti­mated $1.15 bil­lion in earn­ings na­tion­ally can have a price­less im­pact.

“I think it re­flects our col­lec­tive strength,” Dun­lop said. “When some try to min­i­mize the LGBT com­mu­nity, hav­ing as­sess­ments like this paint a very strong pic­ture of the LGBT com­mu­nity, that we should not be marginal­ized and there is strength in our com­mu­nity.”

HB 2, HB 757 fights showed power of dol­lar

In March 2016, North Carolina passed the “Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties Pri­vacy & Se­cu­rity Act,” com­monly known as House Bill 2, that made it il­le­gal for trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als to use the bath­room of their choice and over­turned lo­cal anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws. Ge­or­gia passed House Bill 757, the Pas­tor Pro- tec­tion Act, an­other ex­am­ple of anti-LGBT leg­is­la­tion, in 2016. Gov. Nathan Deal later ve­toed the bill.

Deal’s veto came af­ter North Carolina lost mil­lions in rev­enue. Like most things in pol­i­tics, that num­ber, or even if any rev­enue was lost at all, can’t be agreed upon. The NBA, NCAA and oth­ers pulled games out of the state, and com­pa­nies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank al­tered their expansion plans. In Ge­or­gia, com­pa­nies vowed to do the same, with Dis­ney promis­ing to pull Marvel’s movie pro­duc­tion out of the state, where it filmed at least part of “Ant Man,” “Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War” and “Guardians of the Gal­axy Vol. 2.”

“When our rights could be chipped away, and we’re just a few votes away from be­ing North Carolina at any time, I think the eco­nomic mus­cle is a huge fac­tor to make sure that equal­ity con­tin­ues,” Dun­lop said. “I think it’s uber-crit­i­cal that we con­tinue to mea­sure th­ese things so that when the hu­man rights are in ques­tion, the eco­nomic im­pact will not be.”

Over 450 mem­bers in lo­cal LGBT Chamber

For the most part, “rain­bow busi­nesses” see the same prob­lems that any ex­ist­ing com­pany or startup faces, but Chamber mem­bers say they find strength in their commu- nity. Ernest Dun­can started his first busi­ness at age 55 last year when he opened an Ex­per­i­mac fran­chise in Mid­town.

“I guess I’ve grown up in a fam­ily of en­trepreneurs … my par­ents and grand­par­ents own their own busi­nesses and it’s my time to do it,” Dun­can said.

Dun­can sells re­fur­bished Ap­ple de­vices and does re­pairs on-site. He is a link to the past while rep­re­sent­ing the mod­ern face of LGBT busi­nesses. Dun­can chose Mid­town be­cause of its large num­ber of Ap­ple users, but ap­pre­ci­ates be­ing in a “gay­bor­hood.”

“As I was look­ing for lo­ca­tions I wanted to find an area where there were a lot of Ap­ple users, be­cause that’s where our ex­per­tise is,” Dun­can said. “But, as an African-Amer­i­can, and also be­ing gay, you gain a lot of per­sis­tence, a lot of cre­ativ­ity and a lot of ways to get no­ticed. As cus­tomers come in and they find out the owner is African-Amer­i­can and gay, they feel a lot of own­er­ship be­cause they can iden­tify with me as part of the com­mu­nity.”

Dun­lop said the 450 mem­bers in the At­lanta Chamber rep­re­sent all fields of busi­ness, and most serve more than just the LGBT com­mu­nity, which comes with a bit of risk.

“I think it’s a very low per­cent­age of gay­owned and gay-fo­cused busi­ness mod­els. We’re The Na­tional Gay and Les­bian Chamber of Com­merce cer­ti­fied busi­nesses based on their will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in the sur­vey, if they were ma­jor­ity LGBT ma­jor­ity owned and were head­quar­tered in the United States. The fol­low­ing is a break­down of its re­search. To­tal Com­pa­nies: 909 Com­pa­nies in At­lanta: 44 Top Sec­tors: Con­sult­ing 99, Mar­ket­ing 90 Av­er­age Com­pany Age: 12 years To­tal Em­ploy­ees: 33,000 Av­er­age Rev­enue: $2.4 mil­lion very main­stream, wealth man­age­ment and pro­duc­tion,” Dun­lop said. “I think they have the same prob­lems that nor­mal busi­nesses have, cap­i­tal and cash flow, but that’s in­her­ent in any busi­ness. I think there is an added el­e­ment that busi­nesses who are LGBT need to know who their cus­tomers are. We had one mem­ber who was dropped by a client when they found out she was a les­bian… That’s an added chal­lenge, if you will. I think we all have that one client that if they knew, they might walk.”

By MATT SCHAFER

To read the full re­port visit: nglcc.org/re­port

Fe­bru­ary 17, 2017

The NGLCC’s “Amer­ica’s LGBT Econ­omy” re­port showed that Ge­or­gia is fifth in the nation in num­ber of LGBT-owned busi­nesses. (Photo via “Amer­ica’s LGBT Econ­omy” re­port)

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