Bill to certify LGBT-owned businesses should be passed during Pride Month, group says

As the city gears up for Pride Month celebrations, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce says now is the time to pass a City Council bill aimed at helping LGBT-owned businesses. Whether the legislation will be voted on in June, however, remains uncertain.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Ritchie Torres in February, would require the Department of Small Business Services’ Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity to certify LGBT-owned businesses. The move would open up a host of programs and municipal contracting opportunities that currently help female- and minority-owned enterprises thrive.

“The eyes of the world are going to be on New York this summer with World Pride and Stonewall 50, looking not only to celebrate what we’ve accomplished over the last 50 years but what the future of our movement is,” said Jonathan D. Lovitz, senior vice president of the NGLCC. “As we know as a chamber, our movement is so much stronger when the economics behind it are strong.”

The bill also would add the NGLCC as one of the organizations that the SBS can accept third-party certifications from. Then the applications of nearly 150 LGBT-owned businesses in New York City that are already vetted and certified by the NGLCC would be fast-tracked. Lovitz called NGLCC’s certification the “trusted gold standard” for the LGBT business community in the United States.

If the City Council approves the legislation, New York City would become the largest city in the country to include LGBT-owned businesses in its contracting and economic development opportunities — but it wouldn’t be the first. Such cities as Orlando, Baltimore, Jersey City and Hoboken have instituted certification programs.

“When it comes to LGBT equality in economic life, New York City has been more of a laggard than a leader,” Torres said. “Even Nashville in Tennessee has a certification for LGBT enterprises.”

The NGLCC estimates LGBT-owned businesses across the country contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy every year. With access to more SBS programs and contract opportunities, the NGLCC expects LGBT-owned enterprises in the city to create even more jobs.

"The trickle-down effect is tremendous," Lovitz said. "New York City is full of diverse-owned companies and this is only going to help more of them get opportunities to grow."

The bill also has support from the New York and New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council, a partner organization in certifying minority-owned businesses with the SBS. In a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and chair of the Small Business Committee Councilman Mark Gjoanj, the organization’s president said he does not believe that adding LGBT-owned business certifications would diminish contracting opportunities for other minority-owned enterprises.

“We share the NGLCC’s belief that when it comes to inclusion, there is no ‘us against them’ — no more ‘the pie isn’t big enough.’ Because we all know the pie is as big as we collectively want to bake it,” council president Terrence Clark wrote in the letter, dated March 14.

A spokeswoman for Johnson’s office said the speaker is reviewing the legislation.

Torres said he is confident that the bill will be passed, but stopped short of vowing to get it done during Pride Month. The bill has been referred to the Small Business Committee, but as budget negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio heat up, Torres said no specific time for a hearing has been scheduled.

“I would love to have a hearing in June but I’m mindful that budget negotiations trump everything else,” the councilman said. “If the budget negotiations with the mayor prove to be more complicated than originally thought, then it could have a crowding out effect on everything else.”

Torres said it’s his personal goal is to get the legislation passed by the end of the year.

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