Event is first of its kind for national gay chamber of commerce’s
mountain, southwest region; organizers pleased with attendance
Organizers of the 2006 Mountain and Southwestern LGBT Business Summit held last weekend in Dallas said the event was a resounding success.
“It was wonderful,” said Justin Nelson, president of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
“I could not be more pleased. It was well-planned, well-executed and well-attended,” Nelson said. “We had a large number of organizations come that had not connected with other business groups before, and everyone came away recharged and excited and ready to move ahead.”
The conference was the first of its kind in the mountain and southwestern region. Nelson said that although there is an annual international meeting of chambers and business organizations, “we felt it was important for leaders in this region to be able to get together and communicate.”
The conference was organized locally by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and by Coy Tow, chair of the national chamber’s Mountain and Southwestern States Region. About 100 people attended.
“I was very pleased with the attendance , especially for a first-time conference like this,” Tow said. “We had representatives there from almost every chamber in our region.”
Leo Cusimano, president of the North Texas chamber, said he would have liked to have seen more people attend. “But overall, it was phenomenal opportunity for business and business organizations to share best practices and workable ideas.”
One of the best parts of the conference was a special event featuring Charlie David, an openly gay actor featured on the Here! GLBT television network, Cusimano said.
Nelson said the focus of the conference was giving business professionals in the region the chance for information sharing, team building and “getting on the same page in terms of promoting the LGBT business movement.”
Nelson said the national gay and lesbian chamber was formed about three-and-a-half years ago with the goal of promoting the economic strength and viability of the GLBT community.
“Our goal is to get our organization on par with other business organizations and show the decision-makers, from Washington to Wall Street to Main Street, that we are business people concerned with all the same things any business person cares about,” Nelson said.
He said the national chamber participates in the House of Representatives’ Small Business Committee Roundtable, a group of business advocacy organizations whose members give advice to lawmakers, talk with them about business issues and work on legislation to take before the House Small Business Committee.
Working with that group gives GLBT business leaders the chance to show their straight counterparts and lawmakers how GLBT-specific issues fit into the larger overall picture of small business issues.
“By growing the LGBT business movement, we are strengthening our economic muscle,” Nelson said. “And our adversaries in terms of gay and lesbian civil rights are not overjoyed to see us flexing that economic muscle. It’s hard for them to fight against our civil rights and to discriminate against us when it means that are also fighting against and discriminating against small businesses.”
Tow said that GLBT business leaders in the region have created a regional steering committee and that will work on future collaborative efforts intended to improve communications and on other projects.
He said regional leaders and members also will be working on and attending the international GLBT business conference set for July in Montreal.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 17, 2006.