Houston became the first city in Texas to commit to forming a database of LGBTQ Enterprise-certified businesses for city contractors to use to ensure diversity among subcontractor and vendor participation in projects such as infrastructure improvements.
Prior to Mayor Sylvester Turner signing an executive order requiring the measure on March 4, contractors vying to work on city projects only had to meet goals of hiring a certain percentage of minority and women-owned businesses among their subcontractors and vendors. There were no requirements to include certified LGBTQ Enterprises.
"Until today, LGBTQ entrepreneurs couldn't always bring their full selves to the table for fear of outing themselves and losing business, clients or their livelihoods," said Tammi Wallace, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce CEO. "This change means the city is saying, 'We value you.'"
The National LGBT Chamber sets the requirements for LGBTQ Enterprise certifications, which include verifying that a business is at least 51% LGBTQ-owned, Wallace said. The Greater Houston LGBT chamber, which is a branch of the national organization, is responsible for facilitating the certification for local businesses through the Houston Office of Business Opportunity.
Once certified, businesses also have access to workshops, legal clinics and business development resources offered by the office of business opportunity.
Wallace said she and other chamber leaders have been working with the mayor's office and the office of business opportunity to get the executive order passed since the chamber was established in 2016. It celebrated its five-year anniversary Feb. 24. Over the past year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed efforts.
"I do hope that this will cause other mayors in Texas to look at this and follow Mayor Turner's lead," Wallace said.