Detroit Needs More Vibrant LGBT Businesses

By |2013-07-25T09:00:00-04:00July 25th, 2013|Michigan, News|

DETROIT – LGBT businesses are an untapped resource that could help regenerate Detroit’s economy, especially those owned by LGBT people of color. That was the premise of Many Voices, One Dream, a one-day conference July 22 at the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel.
This economic development initiative came just days after Detroit filed for bankruptcy in the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. However, conference leaders said Detroit’s fiscal crisis is an opportunity for all small businesses, especially those owned by LGBT people.
“Entrepreneurs spring up when they have no other alternative,” said Eugene Cornelius, the openly gay deputy associate administrator for field operations at the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington D.C. The SBA was one of the principle sponsors of the conference and had leaders on hand from the local Michigan office as well as national representation. “There is definitely a silver lining to this bankruptcy. Detroit has a chance to create something really new and LGBT businesses should be front and center in that,” said Cornelius.
“Small Businesses don’t know what they don’t know, especially in underserved communities like the LGBT community,” said Gerald Moore, Michigan District Director of the SBA. “This conference is an opportunity to get connected. Take advantage of it.”
“We want to be a good partner to both the SBA and the National Black Justice Coalition,” said Sam McClure, director of affiliate relations and external affairs at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C., another conference sponsor. She said that NGLCC membership is predominately caucasian and that the Many Faces, One Dream tour is an unique chance for NGLCC to become more diverse. The Detroit conference was the first in a 13 city tour.
Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of Detroit’s Kick and the local host for Many Faces, One Dream, welcome about 40 attendees to the opening breakfast. “We have to own our own power,” said Lipscomb. About 80 people pre-registered for the conference.
Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition and the main organizer of the Many Face, One Dream tour, opened the conference. “This is an important first step in recognizing the untapped potential of this important community,” she said.
Cornelius said the SBA is ready to help, and that the city’s bankruptcy means the SBA can be more important to small businesses than usual because those banks that had shied away from SBA loans will have few alternatives if bankruptcy exacerbates the disinvestment trend that has plagued southeast Michigan.
“Whenever there is a crisis the SBA becomes more important,” said Cornelius. “We saw it after Katrina and after Hurricane Sandy. Lenders don’t have access to capital they would during normal times, so they lean on the SBA more. Show me a disaster and I’ll show you a spike in SBA lending.”

For more information about how the SBA can help LGBT businesses go to http://www.sba.gov/mi.
For more info on NGLCC go to http://www.nglcc.org
Fro more info on NBJC go to http://www.nbjc.org

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.