As the Independence Business Alliance celebrated 10 years as the region’s LGBT chamber of commerce last week, it also looked to the future with the announcement of a major event.
During its anniversary gala last week, IBA invited National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce co-founder and president Justin Nelson to the podium to reveal that Philadelphia will host the organization’s 2018 conference. The event is expected to have an economic impact of more than $2.1 million, bringing in more than 1,000 visitors for the Aug. 7-10 event.
Philadelphia beat out other finalists Tampa, Fla.; Austin, Texas; and New Orleans. NGLCC is the latest in a growing list of national LGBT organizations that has chosen Philadelphia as the host for conferences; National LGBTQ Task Force held its Creating Change here in January, while the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and Out & Equal are all staging events in Philadelphia later this year.
“This says that Philadelphia is a welcoming place,” IBA executive director Zach Wilcha said about the city’s growing record as an LGBT-conference host. “This is where the gay civil-rights movement began so it’s fitting people are coming here to focus on LGBT issues. And it says a lot about the city government and the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, which, under [president and CEO] Julie Coker Graham, is prioritizing bringing minority conferences and meetings, including in the LGBT community, to town.”
IBA worked with PHLCVB and Visit Philadelphia to put together the bid to host the 2018 conference at the beginning of this year.
Wilcha said IBA found out the week of its 10th-anniversary gala that NGLCC had selected Philadelphia.
“That added to making our event even more special,” he said. “We had the NGLCC president there to make the announcement and before he could even get it out of his mouth, the crowd was going crazy. People were really celebrating because there have been a lot of people involved with IBA who have wanted this for a long time.”
IBA usually sends staff and board members to the conference and encourages members to also participate.
“There are lots of great business-building opportunities at the conference,” Wilcha said.
Previous conferences have drawn big names like Melissa Etheridge and Suze Orman. The event hasn’t been held in the Northeast since the 2010 conference in Washington, D.C.
“We are elated to bring the 2018 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference to Philadelphia, and to partner with the Independence Business Alliance and our presenting sponsors to continue expanding the reach and impact of the largest LGBT business event on the planet,” Nelson of NGLCC said. “Solidarity and success in our community has never been more vital than it is now, and so it’s fitting that we bring the entire NGLCC family to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in 2018 to create unprecedented opportunities for LGBT-owned businesses to thrive.”
Wilcha said IBA is working with NGLCC and other partners to determine how the local organization can support the effort in the lead-up to next year.
“We’re determine that now but I do know we’ll be acting as a host committee and working, along with PHLCVB and Visit Philadelphia, to make sure people feel welcome and included when they get here,” he said.