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  1. Tampa

Mayor Jane Castor: city of Tampa will now recognize LGBT-owned businesses

TAMPA — Tampa government will make extra effort going forward to enable LGBT-owned businesses to win contracts with the city.

During a speech at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce International Business & Leadership Conference in Tampa this week, Mayor Jane Castor announced that the city will now recognize certified LGBT-owned businesses. That means the city will treat them similarly to minority and women-owned businesses in when seeking bids for government contracts.

Tampa is the second city in the state to adopt the program after Orlando.

"Small businesses are the backbone of our business community here in Tampa," Castor said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "The more that we can do to help small businesses, the better it is for the economy of our city."

Castor was one of the three-day conference's keynote speakers. The conference is the largest LGBT business gathering in the country and this year's event had the largest attendance in the conference's 16-year history — 1,400 attendees.

The certification, which is provided through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, certifies businesses as LGBT-owned. It helps businesses and government agencies locate companies for diversity spending programs. By recognizing the certification, the city will begin tracking the number of LGBT-owned businesses and their economic impact.

"This is a huge win," said Justice Gennari, president of the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce. The diversity chamber is the local affiliate of the national chamber.

Castor's executive order, which was dated Aug. 13, called for the national chamber to provide mentoring to local business owners, leadership training and scholarship programs to support LGBT businesses in Tampa through its local affiliate.

There are currently 13 local businesses certified as LGBT-owned, Gennari said, and another three business owners approached him at the conference about beginning the certification process.

Members of the local chapter get access to business education and training programs through the chapter's affiliates, such as Regions Bank and pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"When you look at the data, a lot of small businesses fail," Castor said. "What we're trying to do is give all of the assistance that we possibly can in whatever form that may be — mentoring or providing marketing assistance or financial assistance — to help the businesses grow and thrive."

For more information on the certification process, visit

Contact Malena Carollo at or (727) 892-2249. Follow .