Ge­or­gia has fifth-most reg­is­tered LGBTBEs

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

When it comes to find­ing LGBT-owned busi­nesses to sup­port in At­lanta, one doesn’t have to look far. From sea­soned city sta­ples like Charis Books & More to rel­a­tive new­com­ers like Henry’s Mid­town Tav­ern, there are count­less lo­cal busi­ness own­ers hoist­ing the rain­bow flag.

Yet de­spite all of that vis­i­bil­ity, a sur­pris­ing fact re­mains. Just 44 busi­nesses in Ge­or­gia are reg­is­tered as LGBT Busi­nesses En­ter­prises, a na­tional des­ig­na­tion that qual­i­fies com­pa­nies to com­pete for the type of big-ticket cor­po­rate con­tracts that can take them to the next level.

It’s an im­bal­ance that ran­kles Daniel Dun­lop, newly-named pres­i­dent of the At­lanta Gay and Les­bian Cham­ber of Com­merce, who is charged with pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment among the city’s LGBT-owned busi­nesses. The group’s re­sponse: A day-long sum­mit de­signed to bring LGBT busi­nesses and cor­po­ra­tions to­gether to net­work, as­sess the re­gion’s LGBT econ­omy and dis­cuss their role in help­ing rain­bow com­merce thrive in At­lanta.

Rise of the Rain­bow Econ­omy: The 2017 AGLCC LGBT Busi­ness Sum­mit will take place June 23 at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel in Mid­town. Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect 250 busi­ness own­ers to turn out for a day of panel dis­cus­sions and work­shops, with busi­ness gi­ants like Coke, Ge­or­gia Power and Wells Fargo. The event also in­cludes a may­oral panel mod­er­ated by jour­nal­ist Maria Sa­porta. Five out of nine may­oral can­di­dates are ex­pected to at­tend, Dun­lop said. The event is a first for the cham­ber. “It’s been in the plans for the last cou­ple of years,” Dun­lop said, adding that a min­i­grant won last sum­mer helped crys­tal­lize plans. “We wanted to just bring to­gether any ar­eas of the eco­nomic force – busi­ness and per­sonal con­sump­tion and pol­icy ad­vo­cacy.”

In­deed, the event is billed as a sem­i­nar

June 9, 2017

“ex­plor­ing the in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity of per­sonal, pro­fes­sional and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and ad­vo­cacy.” It’s a broad field to cover and Dun­lop ac­knowl­edged the event would be only a first step.

“We can’t ob­vi­ously deep dive in one af­ter­noon,” he said. “But we are touch­ing on some im­por­tant parts that bring to­gether the whole rise of the rain­bow econ­omy.” That econ­omy is boom­ing, ac­cord­ing to a Jan­uary re­port from the Na­tional Gay and Les­bian Cham­ber of Com­merce that es­ti­mated the na­tion’s roughly 1.4 mil­lion LGBT busi­nesses con­trib­uted nearly $2 tril­lion to the na­tional econ­omy in 2015.

Less im­pres­sive is the num­ber of busi­nesses reg­is­tered as LGBT Busi­ness En­ter­prises – LGBTBEs – through the na­tional cham­ber. Na­tion­wide, just over 900 busi­nesses have the reg­is­tra­tion, which qual­i­fies them to com­pete for busi­ness un­der di­verse sup­plier ini­tia­tives at some of the na­tion’s largest com­pa­nies.

Ge­or­gia has the fifth-high­est num­ber of reg­is­tered LGBTBEs in the na­tion, but

By DIONNE N. WALKER

Dun­lop sees po­ten­tial for many more. The group hopes to dou­ble reg­istries over the next few years by en­cour­ag­ing busi­nesses to rec­og­nize the value of iden­ti­fy­ing as LGBT-owned.

“Some­times there are those that don’t see the need, but it’s im­por­tant that we stand and be counted,” he said. “There’s power in in­for­ma­tion, there’s power in com­ing to­gether and there’s power in iden­ti­fy­ing.”

Dun­lop said some busi­nesses are dis­cour­aged by the ex­ten­sive, multi-level ver­i­fi­ca­tion process re­quired to get the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Still oth­ers aren’t sure how they could mar­ket their ser­vices to cor­po­ra­tions even if they were reg­is­tered.

The June event will fea­ture tips for kick­ing off con­ver­sa­tions with cor­po­rate en­ti­ties as well as ways to make your smaller busi­ness more ap­peal­ing. He gave the ex­am­ple of a niche pro­duc­tion com­pany part­ner­ing with a caterer to pur­sue an op­por­tu­nity.

“It be­comes a stronger, in­clu­sive con­tract, to be able to com­pete at that level,” he said. “We’re go­ing to be telling that story – to look for those like-minded ser­vices.”

Though the process of reg­is­ter­ing is ex­ten­sive, busi­ness own­ers will quickly re­al­ize the value, said Billy Cochran, vice pres­i­dent CON­TIN­UES ON PAGE 13

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