Pride 2011 • Making business better for LGBT Dallas

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce works to improve the business climate for its members

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Tony Vedda

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Pride Guide Dedication

The 2012 Pride Guide was dedicated to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the chamber’s work to advance equality and make things better for the community. And chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said this week that the chamber has planned an even busier year ahead.

In October, the Out & Equal conference comes to Dallas. The chamber was instrumental in bringing that convention to the city, the largest LGBT group that Dallas has ever hosted.

Vedda said he hopes that more LGBT groups — both large and small — continue choosing Dallas for their meetings. He said he’d like to see  Creating Change return and for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund hold candidate training classes here. The next GALA choruses festival will be in Denver but Vedda’s hoping Dallas will snag the one after that.

Vedda said that a variety of smaller groups that have never been to Dallas hold annual conventions, specifically mentioning the Gay and

Lesbian Medical Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association as groups he’d like to see come to Dallas for their annual conventions.

And, of course, he hopes the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber will schedule an annual meeting in Dallas sometime in the next few years.

Vedda said that Dallas has an advantage in bringing groups to the city because of the good working relationship the chamber and the LGBT community in general have with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and with other city institutions.

“We have the same goal as any chamber,” Vedda said. “We help our members become bigger and more profitable. That helps us do good work in the community.”

He said that when an LGBT businessperson tells him that they don’t need the chamber, he tells them that the chamber needs them. A strong LGBT business community helps provide good role models and supports the vast array of non-profit organizations as well as chamber projects, he said, adding that in many ways, the chamber is a big, professional “It Gets Better” organization.

The organization’s newest project is its LEAP scholarships.

“We love our acronyms,” Vedda said, “And LEAP stands for Leadership, Education, Advocacy Program.”

Students who self-identify as LGBT, members of LGBT families or allies who advocate for the LGBT community are eligible. The first scholarships will be awarded in December for the spring semester. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 15 and are available online at GLBTLEAP.org.

Winners will be announced Dec. 8 at the Holly Jolly Ball, which is also the chamber’s major fundraising event for LEAP. Tickets will be $75, with silent and live auctions raising money for scholarships and other LEAP projects.

Vedda said he expects applications for the 2012-13 school year to be available online soon after the first awards are made.

LEAP is also planning an LGBT leadership institute. Former participants in Leadership Lambda have been advising the chamber on what worked in the past. Vedda said he wants participants to leave with a good understanding of LBGT history and accomplishments.

“The goal is to develop more ‘best and brightest’ for the non-profit sector of our community,” he said.

Those who go on to attend Leadership  programs in Plano, Dallas or Fort Worth will be better representatives of the LGBT community, he said.

Working with the National GLBT Chamber, the North Texas chamber is offering a designation of LGBT-certified supplier, Vedda said.

“We’re working to make sure opportunities are given to our community like other minority groups,” he said.

The chamber holds two monthly general networking programs and maintains three closed networking groups.

“Those groups have closed millions of dollars in new business for members,” Vedda said.

Several fun events are coming up as well.

A Cedar Springs Road progressive mixer will be structured like a progressive dinner. The evening starts at Tan Bar on one end of the block and works its way up the street, stopping at several chamber members before ending at Axiom Sushi.

The annual chamber dinner will be held in March. A community marketing conference will be held that month as well.

Vedda said he hopes each of these events and everything the chamber does helps Dallas’ LGBT businesses grow and prosper. He said a strong LGBT business community supports equality and the non-profit groups throughout the community that make it get better for everyone.

For more information, go online to GLBTChamber.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The gays behind the Super Bowl (sort of)

Wendy Lopez

The North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, made up of 282 leaders from Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties, includes at least four openly gay members.

Wendy Lopez, vice president of URS Corp., is a member of the Host Committee’s Board of Directors, which is chaired by Roger Staubach and includes the likes of Tom Hicks, Ross Perot Jr. and T. Boone Pickens. Lopez declined our request for an interview about her role on the Board of Directors.

The other openly gay members of the Host Committee — who have honorary roles and haven’t been actively involved in preparations for the Super Bowl — are Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce; Jonathan Palant, artistic director for the Turtle Creek Chorale; and Kevin Moriarty, artistic director for the Dallas Theater Center.

Vedda said he, Palant and Moriarty were named to the Host Committee a few years ago by the city of Dallas.

“To the best of our knowledge, there’s not been a GLBT Chamber ever invited to be on a Super Bowl Host Committee,” Vedda said. “For the state of Texas, which people always assume is so conservative, to have this great event here and to have our chamber connected with it, is really a terrific honor. Of course we all know that North Texas is not the same as the rest of Texas.

“We are a gay and lesbian organization, and I am certainly openly gay, and so to be included and attend the events and interact with folks has just been a terrific experience,” Vedda added. “I think they made a real effort to connect within communities, by inviting people like me to be part of the Host Committee. I viewed this not as a one-time deal. I really viewed this as, I want to understand what it is to be on this committee so that, when it happens again, and I expect it will, we’re knowledgeable enough to position our community better.”

—  John Wright

National CoC honors North Texas business, leaders

NT gay chamber, Burns, American Airlines bring home awards

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

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WINNING SMILES | North Texas Gay and Lesbian Chamber President Tony Vedda, from left,, American Airlines’ George Carancho, Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Burns’ husband J.D. Angle attended the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s awards dinner, where the North Texas chamber, American and Burns were all honored.

The North Texas Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns and Fort Worth-based American Airlines all brought home awards.

The NTGLCoC was named Chamber of the Year. Growth, member services and leadership development were cited as reasons for the award. NTGLCoC Board Chair Derrick Brown and President and CEO Tony Vedda were cited for their leadership.

The award had been announced earlier in the year but the award was presented at the group’s national dinner, with more than 800 people in attendance, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

“It was a very good night for North Texas,” said Vedda.

Burns won the NGLCC/American Airlines ExtrAA Mile Award. Past winners include NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and tennis legend Martina Navratalova.  The North Texas Chamber gives its own ExtrAA Mile Award and presented it to Burns earlier this year for his work following the Rainbow Lounge raid.

The national chamber presented the award to him “for courageously sharing his own struggles and desperation as a gay teen during a recent city council meeting in response to the recent epidemic of LGBT youth suicides and bullying.”

American Airlines was named Corporation of the Year by the national chamber. That award honors companies that are committed to expanding economic opportunities for LGBT-owned businesses.

“It’s well deserved,” said Vedda. “But it’s no surprise to us that they would be recognized. They received our first Corporate Ally award in 2006. We’re thrilled to have them as a major supporter of our organization since we started in 2005.”

The airline has also recently received similar awards from three other groups committed to diversity.

“American actively focuses on identifying minority, women-owned, LGBT and other diverse small businesses as potential suppliers,” said John MacLean, American Airlines vice president for purchasing and transportation. “These awards increase awareness of the importance we place on supplier diversity and our efforts to ensure that our supplier base reflects our customer base.”

Manager of Supplier Diversity and Business Strategies at American Airlines, Sherri Macko, was named Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year from Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council and Advocate of the Year by the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Texas for the second time.

Macko, who is also from the Dallas area, serves on the board of the NGLCC Procurement Council.

The local chamber is accepting nominations for the 2010 Business Excellence Awards. Those honors will be given at the North Texas Chamber’s sixth anniversary dinner in March. Rebecca Covell, who won the 2009 Business Person of the Year award, and Burns are the honorary co-chairs of the event.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas