Wisconsin's gay and lesbian community got a psychological boost this week as Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay person to be elected US Senator. Now gay-owned businesses are forming their own chamber of commerce.
The "LGBT Chamber of Commerce" holds its first official event tonight with a meet and greet, and a few remarks from the Milwaukee County Executive.
It's the type of networking event common in the business world. Jason Rae says the chamber was formed after LGBT-owned or LGBT "allied" business owners realized they didn't fit in with some larger business groups and the connections they offer.
"I met one business owner here in Milwaukee who was telling me how, it's an LGBT owned business and they currently have nine employees," he says. "But in the next year they're looking to expand and double the size of the business. They wanted to find out how to get access to capital where they could learn to develop a business plan."
Rae says the chamber has ten charter members including law firms and service industries. He says the chamber is mostly focused on small business but is also contacting corporations about the importance of recruiting all types of qualified workers.
"We're in a global marketplace right now," he says. "We're competing against the Chicagos, the Bostons, the D.Cs, the New Yorks. Companies really looking at how they can bring in talent and keep people here in Wisconsin. For them it's part of being an inclusive work force. We saw that in Minnesota with the marriage amendment, a number of corporations like General Mills came out and opposed the amendment because they knew it would be bad for business."
Tonight's kick off event in in Milwaukee. Rae says the chamber is planning events in Madison and the Fox Valley.