The first contract awarded by the Democratic National Committee for its July convention in Philadelphia went to an LGBT-owned hospitality company. Todd Lambert owns EventSphere in Atlanta and has handled delegate housing since 2008. It’s part of the DNC’s commitment to spend 35 percent with diverse businesses, up 5 percent from the commitment for the 2012 convention.
Of the five contracts so far awarded for this summer’s convention, four went to diverse businesses.
The DNC also increased its outreach to LGBT professionals in September when it partnered with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. In Philadelphia, that means working with the Independence Business Alliance, the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce and an affiliate of the national chamber.
“When you set these goals, it’s a two-prong approach,” said The Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee. “There’s the setting of the goal, but you have to do the outreach.
“We know as communities of color and as minority communities, we often don’t hear about the opportunities,” Daughtry continued. “We understand we have to do more outreach to ensure that people have the information so they can compete.”
Daughtry said the DNC isn’t the only entity putting money on the table. Corporations, donors, other committees and state party groups will also be spending in Philadelphia during the convention.
Zach Wilcha said he’s been working with local LGBT professionals since he started in October as the Independence Business Alliance’s first executive director. He helped people sign up for the DNC’s vendor directory online at www.phldnc.com/philadelphia-2016-vendor-form, which is how businesses receive information about and bid on the contracts the DNC looks to award for everything from construction and computer services to entertainment and catering.
Wilcha said no local LGBT businesses have yet been selected for a DNC contract, but he noted the vendor directory will have a lasting effect beyond the four-day convention starting July 25.
“The city government and a number of other places like the [Pennsylvania] Convention Center are going to be using that directory to help fill whatever needs that they have in the future,” he said. “Having as many LGBT-owned businesses and women-owned businesses on there as possible is great for our community.”
The DNC has an eye on the future as well. The committee partnered with Google to help businesses establish a web presence. Daughtry said only 56 percent of Pennsylvania businesses have a website, and many of those that don’t are small businesses often owned by minorities.
Google hosted a workshop in January for business owners who participate with the various chambers of commerce in Philadelphia. About 150 professionals attended to learn how to set up a website, spruce up an existing site or work with search-engine-optimization algorithms to make their businesses more findable.
“That’s a lasting legacy item for us to leave for the Philadelphia community that will reap benefits for these businesses in the years to come,” Daughtry said.
The chambers of commerce are also scheduling individual sessions with Google in the coming months. The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has a workshop in May. An IBA workshop has not yet been determined, Wilcha said.
While the DNC does not have goals for specific communities within its commitment to diversity spending, Daughtry said a post-convention analysis of spending will look at spending patterns within the diversity category.
Daughtry said the Democratic Party considers itself the “big tent party” as an advocate for key communities that include LGBT people.
“It is an article of faith for us that we ought to allow the people who move our party forward to be able to be beneficiaries of the party’s resources,” she said.
Wilcha said he hopes the DNC’s commitment to diversity spending has a ripple effect on other conventions that come to Philadelphia.
“We definitely applaud the inclusion of businesses that are LGBT or other minorities,” he said. “I think that in a city like Philadelphia where everything started, it’s all part of the American Dream that everybody has an equal seat at the table.”