By Paul Finlay
Portland Area Business Association (PABA) began supporting the business development needs of the LGBTQ community in 1992. PABA celebrates its place in the community as the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce with approximately 200 members representing businesses owned or operated by a member, ally or supporter of the LGBTQ community.
PABA provides the opportunity for member businesses to showcase their goods and services to supportive consumers. Members have the opportunity to become active in the LGBTQ business community through networking opportunities and business events such as PABA After Hours, monthly luncheon series, and weekly BizBuilders small group discussions. A significant percentage of members are allies and membership extends across the river into the Vancouver area.
In Oregon, 75% of businesses have 9 or fewer employees making the state grow through small business development. With Communication analysis indicates that the buying power of the LGBTQ community nationwide is $830 billion. Portland, along with Fort Lauderdale, is one of the fastest growing LGBTQ populations in same-sex households per capita. In 2013 Portland had the nation’s second biggest per capita growth in unmarried gay and lesbian couple households, beating out nearby Seattle and San Francisco.
PABA supports business development by building community and inclusion. Some associations simply champion the advancement of industry. PABA is focused on community engagement, inclusion and offers a great avenue for business professionals to share best practices, learn about new events, network, and have a dialogue about the Portland business community through a lens of progressive socio-economic change.
Member Jon Gooley says, “I go to PABA for three main reasons: to network, to get educated through the morning workshops [BizBuilders], and to become aware of other events and initiatives going on around the city.”
“LGBTQ buying power is diverse in ethnicity and socio-economic status, and we are an incredibly loyal constituency,” said Justin Nelson, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) Co-founder and President. PABA understands not only the influence of the LGBTQ dollar, but the economics of inclusivity. To that end, the PABA board is reaching out to other chambers in the Metro area such as Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber, North Clackamas and Beaverton Chambers to build relationships beyond reciprocity.
Work is underway to create a strong bond with the federal Small Business Administration (SBA). In early March PABA co-sponsored a half-day business seminar with SBA and NGLCC attended by 55 participants.
PABA is a welcoming organization that the board intends to build into a valuable community asset, integrated into the business health and development of the greater Portland area. PABA leverages and promotes a positive business climate, encouraging and facilitating productive connections among members and non-members alike. Lived equality grows and thrives through business success, economic prosperity and business growth.