Six hundred forty-one billion dollars—that’s right, $641,000,000,000—is a staggering amount of money, even by Donald Trump’s standards. What does that figure represent, you may ask?
Well, according to the Human Rights Campaign, $641 billion is the total buying power nationwide of the LGBT community. This vast sum explains why so many thousands of companies—from mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 corporations—have begun to target LGBT consumers.
In fact, some Fortune 500 companies have gone way beyond written anti-discrimination policies and domestic partner benefits, and have created their own LGBT marketing divisions. It’s a growing trend, and one that is only going to expand as the community gains more visibility and, therefore, more clout.
But, it wasn’t always this way—not even here in New York, a city many people refer to as the gay capital of America. In 1949, a full 20 years before the Stonewall riots, a group of business owners in Greenwich Village got together and formed an association to help promote the Village and help each other grow their individual businesses. And thus, the Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce was born. Back then, however, the thought of including openly gay or lesbian people in their business group would have been unheard of, as would the notion of any legitimate business geared toward gay and lesbian consumers.
Fast forward 57 years. It’s now 2006, and the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce has embarked on a brand new venture—the formation of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Committee, with the purpose of reaching out to LGBT businesses and business owners to increase participation from and within the community. My, how far we’ve come.
The primary goal of any chamber of commerce is to improve the business climate in a given locality, typically through business networks and advocacy, as well as through offering a selection of business services to its membership. The Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce—Chelsea was added to the Chamber a few years back—is no different in this regard, providing its 200-plus members with numerous networking opportunities, business advocacy, and special programs.
A chamber based in Greenwich Village and Chelsea, however, is special, and has to be—because Greenwich Village and Chelsea are two very special neighborhoods, both with a long history of LGBT activism and visibility. The Village, of course, is where it all began, and where the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community grew up and continues to thrive. And Chelsea would never have transformed into the wonderful, diverse neighborhood it is today without the migration of thousands of LGBT people into the area, from both near and far, beginning in the early ‘90s and continuing today.
So, it makes perfect sense then that the Chamber would recognize its special place as the center of LGBT life in Manhattan, and honor that uniqueness through a concentrated effort to reach out to the community. The Chamber’s LGBT Committee is guided by some very talented and committed business leaders and entrepreneurs—including John Wong, a vice president and branch manager at HSBC Bank, Yetta Kurland, an attorney who founded her own law firm, Kurland and Associates, concentrating on the LGBT community, and Tony Juliano, co-owner of one of Chelsea’s most popular gay bars, XES Lounge. These business leaders and others, with our help and support, will lead the effort to reach out to LGBT businesses throughout the Village and Chelsea, with the hope of expanding the Chamber’s membership so that more LGBT businesses, business owners, and employees can take advantage of its valuable programs and services for the business community.
The Chamber is totally committed to having its membership become fully reflective of the community it serves, and the Village and Chelsea just wouldn’t be the Village and Chelsea if it weren’t for its strong LGBT presence.
The Chamber’s membership includes everything from sole proprietorships and medium-size businesses to large corporations and major charitable and educational organizations. The Chamber offers its members valuable benefits and services, including numerous networking opportunities like business luncheons, special events—our 10th annual awards dinner is taking place at NYU’s Kimmel Center on April 11—and themed after-work mixers that are free for our members. In fact, we will be holding our first event celebrating Pride this June!
The Chamber also hosts informative business and educational seminars, provides access to insurance programs, conducts marketing and promotional campaigns, advocates with the government on business issues, and so much more.
If you are an LGBT business owner, or own a business that markets to the LGBT community, or if you work at one of those companies, we hope you’ll join us as we help build a community here in the Village and in Chelsea. If you are interested in joining the Chamber, we would love to have you! You can call the Chamber at 212-255-5852, or visit us on the Web at villagechelsea.com for more information.
If it sounds like fun, it’s because it is. Come join us!
Bob Zuckerman and Jim Hart are, respectively, the executive director and the chairman of the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, villagechelsea.com.