This morning at 10:00 a.m. Mayor David Briley signed an historic executive order that may, in the long term, change the way that LGBTQ-owned enterprises will do business with Metro government. In the short term, it signals this administration’s commitment to revising its procurement processes to create a fairer environment, and its continuing efforts to make Nashville an open and welcoming city for LGBTQ citizens.

This is the culmination of a process that began two administrations ago, with then-Mayor Karl Dean. According to Joe Woolley, the CEO of the Nashville LGBT Chamber, “[we] began conversations, in early 2013, with then-Mayor Karl Dean, about the possibility of adding certified LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBE’s) to Metro Nashville’s procurement and diversity spend. These conversations and advocacy for recognition continued across three mayoral administrations with now Mayor David Briley implementing the policy change.”

“Originally, the Chamber was working to add LGBTBE recognition through council action. When it was indicated inclusion of LGBTBE’s could go into effect with a policy change, not a legislative one, the emphasis shifted to get the Mayor.”

Speaking with O&AN least week, Mayor Briley explained how this executive order took shape. “Back in the spring, or early summer, we named a Minority Business Advisory Council to look at just how we were doing procurement for Metro. And as part of that we put a representative from all of the minority Chambers of Commerce on o the council. And so as part of that process, they made recommendation to me that, getting beyond women-owned and [currently recognized] minority-owned businesses that we start to look at LGBTQ-owned businesses.”

The action step, then, Briley explained, is for the city “to start collecting data for future use, so that the next time we do a disparity study and go out and look at availability versus actual utilization, that we’ll be able to compare our utilization of LGBTQ businesses versus the available number in town. If we find out that there’s a disparity, we’ll go ahead and implement the same kind of goals for LGBTQ-owned businesses as for other minority groups… And that’s a way for us to make the utilization fairer and to provide more opportunities for prosperity for everybody in the community.”

While the full impact of the executive order will come when the study is completed, it is historic for Nashville to even embark on this process. “So we will be, I think, the first southern city to do it. And it’s something, I think,” Briley added, “that is in line with Nashville’s current sense of who wants to be and the progressive nature of the community. And I think it’s an important step forward for Nashville.”

Looking forward to a time when the LGBTQ community may have minority spend goals with the city, the LGBT Chamber has been working to get as many local businesses as possible certified as LGBT-owned. “With grants from the NGLCC and Wells Fargo, we certified over 20 businesses in the last three years,” Woolley said. “Mayor Briley and the Metro Council moved to continue this certification work by awarding the Nashville LGBT Chamber a $25,000 Metro grant in 2018. The grant is being used to provide outreach and education to small business owners who have the potential to get certified and do business with Metro.”

“Certification can be difficult, and part of what the LGBT Chamber is doing with the $25,000 that they received is to assist businesses in getting certified,” said Joseph Woodson, the mayor’s LGBTQ liaison. “It already has value to businesses, being recognized by a lot of big business in the private sector … even in Nashville, businesses like Nissan, like Bridgestone… So the Chamber will be helping and assisting people to get certified. I think they have about 15 more business that are in the process now.”

Three administrations have worked to get us to this point. So how did it finally come to pass? Mayor Briley credits the LGBT leadership within his administration. “One of the things that brought this to the point where we could actually get it completed,” Briley explained, “was that we have Joseph [Woodson], a liaison specifically to the LGBT community in Nashville. And he has been empowered to go out and sit on people’s desks until they actually do what they’re supposed to do.”

There remains a lot of work to be done, by both the city and the LGBT Chamber, but this morning an important, and historic, step forward was taken. Mayor Briley was to be joined in making remarks by Joe Woolley, Chance Mitchell (co-Founder and CEO, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)), Klayton Fennell (Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Comcast), and Jack Davis (Founder, Good Neighbors Festivals).

 

For more information on certification as an LGBT business enterprise, contact the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

For more on the Nashville LGBT Chamber and Joe Woolley, see Nashville’s LGBT Chamber has a familiar new CEO.