(WM) ST. PETERSBURG | The City Council will vote on a resolution June 6 to recognize LGBTQ-owned businesses in the city’s small business enterprise (SBE) program to promote a more inclusive economy.

The effort was led by St. Petersburg City Councilmember Gina Driscoll, an advocate for smart development including affordable housing and the city’s reduction of single use plastics. If passed, the resolution will recognize businesses which are at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by LGBTQ individuals and monitor the usage of LGBTQ-owned businesses in St. Petersburg’s procurement of goods and services.

St. Petersburg’s SBE program currently certifies SBEs for contracting and procurement opportunities in construction, professional services, goods and supplies. Working in conjunction with The Greenhouse, the city’s facility for starting and growing local business, SBEs are provided business counseling, networking and specialized assistance with access to capital and credit for startups.

Once included in the SBE program, St. Petersburg will provide LGBTQ-owned businesses with training to ensure they are familiar with how to conduct business with the city and ensure they are informed about procurement opportunities. The resolution will become effective immediately once passed.

The measure follows a similar initiative passed in Orlando last April, by design. “I saw the Watermark article on the Orlando announcement, that they were going to establish this category within the city for LGBTQ businesses, and it caught my eye,” Driscoll recalls. “St. Petersburg has a strong commitment to the LGBTQ community and to celebrating the diversity and inclusiveness that we all enjoy here—it sounded like it would be a great fit for our city.”

Driscoll researched the initiative and collaborated with city staff to begin work on the resolution that city council will vote on June 6. “In addition to standing up and saying that I’m an ally and I support the LGBTQ community,this resolution gives me an opportunity to actually do something that can help,” she says. “I’m very excited about it.”

Mayor Rick Kriseman, another LGBTQ ally and advocate, joined in Driscoll’s excitement. “I was excited to bring this idea to him,” she says, “and his response was just as I expected it to be, which was enthusiastic and encouraging. Once I showed him the draft resolution, he said he was fully on board, and that is great news to me.

“It means that he’s going to stand with me to make sure that we do implement these practices to start reaching out more to LGBTQ-owned businesses,” she continues. “It was an affirmation that he stands with me, with both of us as allies, to really do more to create a more inclusive economy for St. Petersburg.”

“The city of St. Petersburg is committed to providing all business owners, including historically-underrepresented business owners, with equal opportunities to compete and succeed,” St. Petersburg LGBTQ Liaison Jim Nixon adds from the mayor’s office. “We are committed to providing small businesses, including LGBTQ-owned small businesses, with training programs and services to ensure businesses are familiar with how to do business with the City of St. Petersburg and are informed about procurement opportunities. Monitoring usage of LGBTQ-owned businesses in the procurement of goods and services for the City of St. Petersburg is an important part of that commitment.”

“I would encourage anyone who supports this to please come and let us know,” Driscoll says of the June 6 council meeting. “Our vote is going to reflect your voice.”

City Council will vote on the measure in City Hall’s Council Chamber, located at 175 Fifth St. N., June 6 at 8:30 a.m. For more information, visit StPete.org.