The Out & Equal Workplace Summit held Oct. 22-25 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel broke records and had a bigger impact on the city than any other LGBT conference Dallas has hosted.
More than 2,600 people registered for the convention, with participants coming from 42 states and 23 countries.
That included 60 corporate CEOs, including Wes Bush of Northrop Grumman and Mike Ullman of J.C. Penney, who both addressed the LGBT group.
According to Out & Equal spokesman Justin Tanis, the Workplace Summit raised a total of $2.5 million.
The Thursday night gala’s live and silent auctions brought in $74,660 that will benefit the Out & Equal Scholarship Fund for LGBT students.
The conference had a big impact on the local economy both in the LGBT community and Dallas in general.
At the Thursday night dinner, Bush handed Youth First Texas’ Sam Wilkes a check for $20,000.
According to Cordey Lash, a senior sales manager with the Hilton Anatole, the conference had a $3 million impact on the hotel, which included about 6,000 room-nights plus food and beverage sales. During three nights of the conference, the Anatole sold out, so three neighboring hotels filled hundreds of additional rooms.
Lash called the Summit “one of the most impactful conferences of the year.”
He also expected future business from corporations whose executives attended and were impressed with the city and his hotel’s facilities.
The conference had an impact on local LGBT merchants as well. Wednesday was Out & Equal community night.
The Cedar Springs strip was as crowded as on a busy Saturday night.
While many of the attendees were from companies that affirm and encourage diversity and have top ratings in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, the conference also attracted employees of companies such as ExxonMobil that have poor ratings.
And the conference wasn’t all business. Top-name entertainment included Candis Cayne, the first transgender actress to have a recurring role on a primetime network series (Dirty, Sexy Money); comedians Margaret Cho and Kate Clinton; actors Meredith Baxter and Wilson Cruz; and the Turtle Creek Chorale.
Speakers included Andy Cohen, Bravo’s openly gay senior vice president of original programming and development; and Rick Welts, president and chief of operations for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Because evaluations of the event from attendees were so positive, Tanis said Out & Equal is already talking to the Anatole about returning, possibly as early as 2014.
— David Taffet
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.