The Montgomery County LGBT Business Council announced its first-time board members last month, as part of an ongoing effort to expand the organization’s reach.
Board members include Ricky Buttacavoli as president, Hank Sharkey as vice president and chair, Kevin McPoyle as treasurer and Teresa Parris as secretary. John Walko is a board member who is assisting the council with legal paperwork.
“I’m really proud of the group that we have,” Buttacavoli said.
Jim McDevitt, one of the group’s founding members, created the council as a resource for LGBT professionals in Montgomery County. He said the group is working with municipalities to ensure businesses are following Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order, which expanded nondiscrimination protections for individuals based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“We hope to change policies,” McDevitt said. “We’re going to stress to them that they should have a corporate sponsorship policy, an investment policy, and outline exactly what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
Buttacavoli noted that while other areas in Pennsylvania have LGBT business councils, specifically the Independence Business Alliance and the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County has “a long way to go.”
“There’s that hole that needs to be filled here in Montgomery County so we’re just trying to fill that and work with those other groups to make sure [LGBT] employees are protected,” Buttacavoli said.
The council has already hosted business-card exchanges and other social events. Buttacavoli said they will continue those efforts with another business-card exchange in October and a holiday party in December.
The group currently has a Facebook page for outreach but Buttacavoli said members are planning to also launch a more formal website. Additionally, they intend to have a physical office space and would like to work with businesses to create LGBT-inclusive training sessions.
“We’re looking for leaders in Montgomery County to step up and take on greater roles to promote diversity,” Buttacavoli added. “A lot of businesses want to market to the LGBT community and I don’t think they know how to reach us in Montgomery County. So having a website up, it can market [our group]. Our website and our organization will serve as a platform to reach out to businesses as well as for people who want to support LGBT-friendly businesses and LGBT ally businesses. We’re excited about that, particularly in today’s environment.”