Group certifying Utah LGBTQ-owned businesses

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce is helping to identify LGBTQ businesses through a distinguished certification. A Provo-based business is one of only 11 in the state to have earned the distinction.

“The chamber works to expand economic opportunities and procurement initiatives for LGBTQ business owners in all 50 states. The community is now included in supply chains in every major industry across the Fortune 500 because of these efforts,” the NGLCC Senior Vice President Jonathan Lovitz said.

The chamber is currently the nation’s largest LBGTQ advocacy force, working to ensure opportunities are open to gender, romantic, and sexual minorities in business at every level of government and every element of business, from the supply chain to the workplace, and internship.

“We are working to make sure everyone lives up to what we know to be the driving principle behind our work, which is diversity and inclusion is good for business,” Lovitz said.

The benefits of diversity have two major impacts: social and economic.

“Socially, when communities pass nondiscrimination orders and intentionally include people in opportunities to access the American Dream where they live, that place becomes much more attractive because they are open for business,” he said.

Across the United States, 1.4 million business owners identify as a part of the LGBTQ community, adding about $1.7 trillion to the economy every year. LGBTQ consumers spend $917 billion on goods and services every year.

“We are watching the corporations that have our back, the cities, and states who are looking to protect and then expand opportunities for us and then reward them with our economic return on that investment in the well-being of our community,” Lovitz said.

More diversity in the supply chain also means more competition. When there is more competition, there is inherently more innovation, Lovitz said, and that drives industries forward and usually lowers prices.

With lower costs, there is more money available to be reinvested into communities through health, public safety, and education programs, which are necessary for continued growth.

“The more that we ensure the playing field is level and that everyone has an opportunity to be on that playing field, fairly, is how we live,” he said. “It’s how our economy gets stronger; it’s how our society becomes more cohesive and respectful and tolerant of one another; it’s how we develop the future of so many of our workforces and industries.”

The NGLCC’s current network of 60 affiliates across five continents works to promote the idea that “an economy is made stronger when everyone is given the ability to freely and fairly participate in it.”

Particularly in the U.S., efforts have become increasingly important in recent years as many believed marriage equality resolved all of those issues. That, however, is not the case, Lovitz said.

While the U.S. Supreme Court secured marriage equality in 2015, it wasn’t until June 2020 that LGBTQ employees received workplace protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Not even 60 days ago, it was still legal to be fired in 28 states for putting your spouse’s photo on your desk,” Lovitz said. “Thank goodness the Supreme Court made sure our communities are protected in the workplace should they face issues there, but there’s still so much that is holding back the full potential of the LGBT community in our economy.”

In 35 states, an LGBTQ small business owner who has applied for funds can be turned away by a bank manager or loan officer based on “we do not give money to your kind.” Lovitz said this is because there are no federal nondiscrimination and credit protections.

To help even the playing field and encourage networking and support, the NGLCC established a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprise certification. The chamber is the exclusive certifying body for LGBTQ companies. LGBTBE certification is one of the most useful tools.

To earn the certification, a business needs to be 51 percent owned by someone identified as a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The certification is recognized nationwide and gives businesses access to direct contracting opportunities with major corporations and opens doors to education and mentorship programs, scholarship funds, and grants that help grow business owners in the LBGTQ+ communities.

It also streamlines the loan process as banks and loan officers can see that certified businesses are vetted by a trusted organization, namely the NGLCC.

“Without your certification, you don’t have a key to get in the room where the table is that you want to be seated at,” Lovitz said. “It’s all about leveraging where we are in this moment as a community and marrying that with what opportunities lie ahead for a whole new working world where, especially as things continue in this post-COVID era, the same kind of equal access to opportunity continues to be pervasive in our communities.”

Ann Atkin has lived in Provo for 31 years with her wife, their six children, and 22 grandchildren. A little over four years ago, Atkin and her wife founded Meth Mob Decontamination after learning about the high rate of methamphetamine use in homes.

The company specializes in the decontamination of homes and properties where meth has been made or used and provides education courses on the effects of meth use.

In Dec. 2019, the company earned two certifications as a women-owned business and an LGBTQ-owned business. Meth Mob Decontamination became the third business in the state and the first in the county to earn the LGBTBE certification.

For Atkin, the certification was an opportunity to further market her growing business.

“I think it comes down to: people want to do business with decent people, they don’t necessarily mean to be bigoted or prejudiced,” she said. “So I’m a woman, so I’m gay, there’s so much more to me than just those things.”

The application process was rigorous, and rightfully so, she said. The certification is more than ownership. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Atkin said, is looking to make sure the businesses that earn their certification are legitimate entities that support their communities.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, American Airlines, one of the corporate partners of the NGLCC, reached out to the Provo-based company. The airline was looking to hire an LGBTBE certified business to sanitize their planes during the pandemic.

Atkins said she was appreciative of the experience; however, Meth Mob Decontamination does not offer commercial sanitization services and instead referred them to another local company.

“It’s kind of cool to get a phone call from other partners that are LGBTQ that say they want to shop inside of their network of people first,” she said.

Overall, she said, the certification hasn’t significantly impacted her business. While she is thankful for the certification, Atkin said it serves manufacturing and suppliers more than service-based companies like Meth Mob Decontamination.

The average small business dies around the 5-year mark, she said, while the average LGBTQ business is 12 years or older.

This is largely due to an element of strength, resilience, and independence across the LGBTQ communities that was necessary for them. Lovitz said the NGLCC continues to support the development of a network that uses the business network as a force for good in local, state, and national economies.

As businesses across the country begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession, now is the perfect time for cities, especially in Utah, to think about what they need to do to help their communities, Lovitz said.

One of those ways, he said, is to help every community succeed and intentionally include historically marginalized communities.

“If a place like Salt Lake City wants to see its best economic days ahead of it and wants to see its small businesses recover, making sure LGBTQ small businesses are included in their recovery plans means including one of the strongest but often most underrepresented forces in the country,” Lovitz said.

Currently, the NGLCC has over 1,400 certified businesses and over 260 corporate partnerships. Business owners can begin the certification process online.

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