The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) has chosen Broward County as the host destination for its 2021 “International Business and Leadership Conference.”
Organizers say the annual conference is “the world’s largest LGBT business event.”
The 2021 incarnation is set to take place Aug. 8-14 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood.
“[Greater Fort Lauderdale] not only offers a thriving LGBT scene, but it also offers … stunning beaches and a variety of world-class museums, culinary experiences and unique attractions,” Justin Nelson, cofounder and president of NGLCC recently said in a statement.
The conference was held in Fort Lauderdale in 2015 – the last time it was in the area. The Washington, D.C.-based NGLCC held its 2019 conference in Tampa in August. Las Vegas was chosen as the host city for 2020.
Organizers said one of the reasons for the return to Broward is because the greater Fort Lauderdale area is considered the “LGBT capital of Florida,” with the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country and hundreds of gay-owned and operated businesses.
The area also welcomes 1.5 million LGBT travelers each year, in part because many stakeholders have been proactively welcoming the LGBT market for decades.
Organizers expect more than 1,400 attendees, with a program that features networking, workshops, seminars, performances, panels and entertainment.
Two of the conference’s local partners, who were instrumental in its return to Broward, are Keith Blackburn, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce (GFLGLCC), and Richard Gray, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Blackburn was born and raised in Washington, D.C., but he got tired of the cold weather and moved to Miami Beach to do real estate.
He gravitated to Broward over time and eventually operated a guesthouse – Mary’s Resort. After joining a group that promoted gay-owned guesthouses, he began to see a need for an exclusively LGBT Chamber.
“Before I founded the Chamber I reached out to [the NGLCC] to get the criteria and become an affiliate. It allows for an independent, separate board. We pay an affiliation fee and get their support, participate in conferences, events and training – and the national conference,” Blackburn said.
Since launching, he’s overseen growth in membership, a rebrand, and the opening of the visitor’s center in 2018.
Blackburn said he’s already looking at expanding the center’s hours and wants to eventually be open seven days a week instead of the current five.
Blackburn said typically when a business is doing well, they don’t seek him out. But he said that’s a mistake, and it’s better to be proactive no matter your current situation.
“When business is good, they sometimes aren’t as motivated to join a chamber, they feel they don’t need it,” he said. “And if business is really bad, they can’t afford it. The middle ground is: business is good, but could be better.”
Each member has their own page on the GFLGLCC website. Members can post an event or a job opening there. A visitor might be looking for a Realtor, an insurance agent or a place to workout.
“It’s all about expanding your business,” Blackburn said.
Membership packages start at $295 for 12 months.
The GFLGLCC has five board members now, including Blackburn and one woman. He said it’s a board that reflects the current demographic.
“[The chamber] has evolved and has become a passion. It’s a lot of work. The benefits are unique and I remind members to use them,” he said.
More is at GFLGLCC.org.