The GSBA Blog

King County becomes a national leader in recognizing the economic impact of LGBT-owned businesses

by Jason Dittmer, Director of Marketing & Communications
| Jul 07, 2016


Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO; King County Council Chair Joe McDermott; King County Executive Dow Constantine; Jonathan D. Lovitz, VP of External Affairs, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Local and national businesses associations say that Executive Constantine’s decision to make King County the largest county in the United States to track the number of contracts awarded to LGBT-owned small businesses will have a positive impact on the region’s economy and predict that other metropolitan regions will follow King County’s lead.

King County will become a national leader in supporting LGBT-owned small businesses under an inclusive policy announced today by Executive Dow Constantine.

King County will become the largest county in the United States to track the number of contracts that are awarded to LGBT entrepreneurs, an approach that has dramatically increased the number and value of contracts awarded to local small businesses owned by women, people of color and people who are disadvantaged during Executive Constantine’s administration.

“We are once again putting King County at the national forefront of social change and justice,” said Executive Constantine. “We are stronger when we reduce barriers to opportunity so everyone can fully participate in our economy. By supporting local LGBT entrepreneurs, we are making progress toward a just, equitable society.

Local and national business associations say the move will have a positive impact on economic activity in the region and predict that other metropolitan regions will follow King County’s lead.

“Opportunity and access are key ingredients for ensuring the success of small businesses. GSBA applauds King County for its leadership in being the first government agency in the Northwest to recognize LGBT certification so that LGBT businesses will now have parity in opportunity with other minority businesses in the region,” Louise Chernin, President & CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association. “By recognizing and tracking certified LGBT-owned businesses that apply for contracts, King County continues its longstanding commitment to equality, diversity and opportunity for all.”

“King County continues a long tradition of creating greater access to the American Dream for the thousands of LGBT business owners who live and work there,” said Justin Nelson, co-founder and President of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. “By offering an equal seat at the table to bid on King County contracts, we will see the same surge in the job creation, industry innovation, and contributions to the local economy that LGBT businesses owners have earned acclaim for across this country. King County is now committed to enhancing the visibility of its thriving LGBT business community.”

“For the past couple years, the SBA has conducted LGBTQ Business Builder trainings across the U.S. to educate LGBTQ-owned small businesses about the supply chain opportunities available through LGBTQ business certification,” said U.S. Small Business Administration Regional Administrator Calvin Goings. “I commend King County for being a leader among local governments by embracing this inclusive vision of entrepreneurship. When we draw from all demographics and backgrounds, we’ll grow our economy, create good jobs, and make the Puget Sound more globally competitive.”

Based on a highly successful model
The county’s successful Small Contractors and Suppliers program has more than doubled the number and value of contracts awarded to local small businesses since Executive Constantine took office. The number of certified small contractors has increased from just over 1,100 in 2010 to more than 2,300 last year. The value of small business contracts over that same period has increased from $23 million to $47.3 million.

Contracts are still awarded to businesses that score the highest in the competitive process, regardless of race, gender or sexual identity. What King County has done is increase the number and diversity of small businesses competing for contracts by reaching out to small business owners that have historically been disadvantaged and making the procurement process more accessible.

Now the county will expand the approach to include LGBT small business owners to increase visibility and create a more equitable environment. By creating a directory of LGBT-owned small businesses, King County will also better connect local business owners, acting as a catalyst for economic activity.

The announcement is the culmination of work that started during Executive Constantine’s first term when he committed to reforming county operations, which evolved into what is now known as the  Best Run Government initiative. One of the achievements was improving the procurement process to make it more convenient for businesses. Today, for example, small businesses can enroll in a single program to compete for contracts awarded by King County, the Port of Seattle, Sound Transit and Seattle Colleges.

King County will also include an LGBT category in its directory of small businesses, making it easier for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender businesses to support one another.

The largest county in the U.S. to apply this approach
With a population of more than 2.1 million residents, King County is the 13th-largest county in the United States. It will be just the second county, after Essex County in New Jersey, to track how many contracts are awarded to businesses owners who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.

Only two states – Massachusetts and California – include an LGBT category in their procurement policies.

National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (LGBT certification)
King County Office of Equity and Social Justice
Executive Constantine’s Best Run Government initiative
Directory of Small Businesses and Contractors