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National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Equality Ohio

On Thursday, April 24th, we attended a very informative program at the Intercontinental Hotel put on by Plexus, the Northeast Ohio Chamber of Commerce serving the LGBT Community, regarding the importance of businesses owned and operated by LGBT community members to become certified as LGBT firms by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The guest speaker was Sam McClure from the NGLCC who was visiting Cleveland from Washington, D.C. Ms. McClure said that many large corporations like IBM, JP Morgan, and Motorola embrace diversity and wish to extend opportunities to LGBT firms and went on to explain the criteria for a firm to be certified as such. Very briefly, a firm can become certified as an LGBT firm if it is at least 51% owned and operated by LBGT people; it exercises independence from any non-LGBT enterprise (in short, it just can't be a storefront established to use and take advantage of the LGBT designation); its main location must be in the U.S.; and it must be a legal entity within the U.S.

Founded in 2002 and recognized by 1/3 of Fortune 500 companies, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (LGLCC) is an entity to support and advocate for diversity and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender businesses . It is modelled after the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC).

We were treated to a success story by Jeff Blacek and Michael Brunstedt, both life partners and business partners/co-owners of Full Color Printings, a full service printing company here in Cleveland. Blacek and Brunstedt definitely believe that the LGBT certification helped Full Color Printings be one of the six firms selected by Case Western Reserve University to receive their outside printing business. As a result, their production has gone up 300% and Full Color Printings might get a contract with Hartford too.

Ms. McClure showed us a picture of a large industrial crane and stated that she doesn't believe that the certification by the NGLCC will really make a business better in terms of skills or quality but it can help "to pull a company up to the next level" just like a crane would do.

We were very pleased that Shanelle Johnson, Certification and Contract Compliance Officer from the Mayor of Cleveland's Office of Equal Opportunity was in attendance because Shanelle reminded everyone that Cleveland, starting at the beginning of 2014, has an LGBT-Owned Business Registry. In fact, we were one of the first cities in the United States to establish this; we even got ours going before San Francisco who didn't start their own until three weeks ago.

On the evening of the 24th, we went to Pilgrim Congregational Church for a meeting of Equality Ohio whose mission is to advocate and educate "to achieve fair and equal treatment for all Ohioans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression". There were about twenty of us present and we exchanged stories of cases of discrimination that we had either witnessed or experienced ourselves and made plans to table at several upcoming events. Northeast Ohio Organizer Nicole Thomas did a very fine job conducting the meeting and afterwards we all felt like we had been energized and left feeling really upbeat which was a great way to end the day.

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