Albuquerque has a small, but thriving and growing, LGBTQ business community. There have always been gay-owned or operated businesses, and of course, LGBTQ people work in just about every type of business there is. Some examples are the restaurants Standard Diner and the Range Cafes, Self-Serve, Swank, Shears to You, One Community Auto, Urban Fresh Cosmetics and many others. The Albuquerque LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce has a mission of helping our LGBTQ-owned or friendly small businesses grow, to help our community start their own businesses and to help provide resources which can facilitate those start-ups or growth of existing businesses. One role is making the LGBTQ business community more visible in the City, and to ensure we have a “seat at the economic table” so we are included in plans to help businesses throughout Albuquerque. Mayor Tim Keller is introducing new measures to bring the City out of our economic doldrums. And he has promised to work with us on all aspects including LGBTQ tourism.
LGBTQ tourism is a huge market. Many LGBTQ travelers don’t know much about our City. They don’t realize the City and State have sexual orientation and transgender protections, or all we have to see and do. The Chamber is working to change this along with our partners at VisitABQ, the lodging industry and airlines. LGBTQ travelers spend more than straight travelers. It is in our interest to attract these travelers and show them all we have to offer. The same-sex couples who came to get married are spreading the word, but we must do more.
In 2014, Albuquerque Business First newspaper held an event called, “Reinventing Our City”, about getting our economy moving. They showed all the sectors that were suffering. Many had great ideas, but they take time. Not one sector was growing - except one. In December 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal in NM. We saw a huge influx of same-sex couples from Texas, Colorado and other states coming to get married. It was a large economic boost and made tourism the only segment that was growing. Some couples dropped huge amounts of money, in one case over $100,000 just for the reception. Even more modest weddings created jobs for hotels, airlines, wedding officiants and others. Most of these couples sought gay-owned or gay-friendly businesses using resources like the Chamber, the New Mexico Pride Guide, and EQNM. The general business community was stunned.
What did they think about the LGBTQ business community? Nothing - we were not even a factor in their minds. This was a wake-up call demonstrating both the buying power and the businesses in our community. Same-sex couples continued coming until 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal across the country. By word of mouth, many of these couples had such wonderful experiences they recommended to their friends to come here to get married, so it’s still providing benefits.
Albuquerque Business First has created a list of LGBTQ-owned businesses. The first year, this list was fairly small. The second year, the list grew, and we expect this list to grow even more. Why? Because for these small businesses, it is another “coming out” process. But the list is growing as more LGBTQ business owners see the benefit of being on the list and know it’s safe. The LGBTQ Chamber is part of the Western Business Alliance composed of the LGBTQ chambers from cities across the West. Annually, the WBA holds an Economic Summit. In 2018, it was in San Francisco. Our Chamber bid on hosting the Summit, and won for 2020. This will bring a very diverse group of LGBTQ business leaders to our City, and they, in turn, will go home and spread information about Albuquerque to their communities.
The Chamber is already working with VisitABQ, hotels and business owners to sponsor the Summit, and is also working to bring many more LGBTQ conferences to Albuquerque, such as the national LGBTQ realtors association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. All of this will help our LGBTQ businesses to grow and prosper. The Chamber works with the Small Business Administration and local funders to help members of our community to start new businesses. Mayor Keller is focusing on growing “home-grown” businesses so this is a great time to start a small business. For more info, visit the LGBTQ Chamber at www.abqgaychamber.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. NM Pride Guide at gogaynewmexico.com, or Equality New Mexico at www.eqnm.org.
P&E - After Print
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