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Connected Communities Help LGBTQ+ Businesses Thrive

June 23, 2021

It's said that "Great minds think alike." We'd also add that like-minded organizations working together can affect real social change, as with the successful partnership between the Port of Seattle and the Greater Seattle Business Alliance (GSBA)

The GSBA is Washington state's LGBTQ+ and allied chamber of commerce and the largest LGBTQ+ chamber in North America. It represents over 1,300 small business, corporate, and nonprofit members (including the Port) with shared values of promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. Since it was founded 40 years ago, GSBA’s core mission of supporting its community has not changed. Over the past year, the GSBA provided grants to 131 small businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures and summer protests. 

To celebrate Pride Month, we highlight the longstanding, effective, and collaborative relationship between the Port and the GSBA that brings together like-minded business owners to create a safe community to run their business and to promote civil rights.

Connecting to Port resources

GSBA Interim Director Mark Rosén said the GSBA supports its members by sharing best practices, pointing members to resources, and providing relevant training.

The GSBA encourages its members to take part in the Port of Seattle PortGen workshops and small business trainings, which provide an opportunity to meet Port of Seattle representatives; learn about programs, initiatives, and contracting goals; and connect to resources.

Rosén says he offers any support he can to help members win Port contracts.

“For example, we help them answer questions like ‘What is the process to gain access to suppliers on Port projects?’  ‘Are there more opportunities to become an airport concessionaire?’ Our members are also interested in the economic forecast and expansion plans for the cruise terminals.”

A community connector

GSBA serves as a connector across the state, bringing the community together, advocating for civil rights and small business, promoting LGBTQ+ tourism through Travel Out Seattle, and investing in the next generation of leaders through the GSBA Scholarship Fund.
GSBA is as much a community as it is a business chamber; its members stand for diversity, and inclusion, and are committed to philanthropy and investing in the future. Many members say they may have joined first for business reasons but remain connected to GSBA because they value the sense of community that the organization is known for.
Nic Longo, a Port employee and member of Port Wide Pride, said he is connected to the GSBA on a personal level and appreciates their strong support of the LGBTQ+ business community.

“Before working at the Port, my husband (John van Deinse, also a Port employee) and I were small business owners. We owned a restaurant, and we were GSBA members. Louise Chernin (CEO at that time) and her wife Mary were among our restaurants’ main sponsors. I will never forget the human aspect of our relationship with GSBA and how close we became with their staff during that time. As a restaurant, we hosted many of the GSBA events, and we built a great relationship with the community and with their staff, so strong that we are still in touch with Louise, and with Mark Rosen (current CEO). Great memories! When I joined the Port, I was excited to hear that the Port was also a GSBA member.”

A shared equity mission

One of the Port's top priorities is to support small business growth and workforce development and has prioritized contracts with these firms. The Diversity in Contracting program offers resources and workshops to help business owners learn how to do business with the Port.

Rosén applauds the Port's efforts to increase the number of women- and minority-owned businesses that contract with the Port, which aligns with the equity work and mission of GSBA.

Rosén continues to foster GSBA’s strong relationship with the Port of Seattle, to introduce GSBA members to more business opportunities with the Port.

Interested in doing business with the Port of Seattle? Find business opportunities

*Image credit: Cade Schmidt, GSBA

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