The Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce of Nevada still is setting its sights on growing membership in Northern Nevada’s Quad County region and surrounding areas where business opportunities are flourishing, according to Chamber President Tim Haughinberry.
The Chamber announced its expansion to Northern Nevada in August, and Haughinberry is focused on generating diversified interest from corporations and smaller companies to support the GLCCNV in its mission to become fully integrated and connected with Nevada’s LGBTQ community.
“We’re not a health group, we’re not an advocacy group,” Haughinberry said. “We are about businesses and business entities owned by LGBTQ people. We can help them market and get certified where we can introduce them to companies such as the Eldorado or Apple up in Commercial Row (in Reno).”
Haughinberry said the Chamber’s goal was to have 100 members by the end of this year. In Las Vegas, the organization has found more than 70 members, but has struggled to find any members in Carson City or its surrounding areas in Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties, where there’s a strong draw for small businesses that maintain a conservative, rural lifestyle and a unique appeal to tourism.
“When you look at the issues that get the public’s opinion, it would be things like people that refuse to sell cakes to gay couples,” he said. “I haven’t seen that and nobody in the Chamber has seen that in the state of Nevada. There’s not a lot of controversy here. That’s why we stay business-focused.”
Haughinberry, who came to Nevada in 1987 to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and studied hospitality management, said he moved up through a number of bars and left Southern Wine and Spirits as its youngest manager in its history. He started his own rum brand.
Eventually, the GLCCNV would begin in 2014 in Las Vegas, and Haughinberry would become its president in 2019, with its membership having dropped to just seven members. He said he knew he had to make some changes, at first unknowingly taking the helm in his first week.
“We had no board, no real licensing, our insurance had lapsed, no P.O. box,” he said. “I decided in the first three months we would make it a legal structure.”
Haughinberry formed a new set of bylaws and created a new website, making sure the organization as a whole was fully formed and realized again before setting out to gain support. He then went out to find members in Reno and recruited nearly 10 new businesses and encouraged everyone to sign up for their local chamber as well as the GLCCNV and found success particularly among certain professions through Internet searches, he said.
“You’d be surprised how many people are typing in ‘gay Realtor,’ ‘gay doctor’ and ‘gay lawyer’ from California,” he said. “If we’re the marketing firm in times like this, we should be able to help people with that type of knowledge.”
But he still has key areas he wants to reach.
“I’ve looked online and I can’t find much going on for gay and lesbian members in Carson,” he said. “So let’s let them know what we’re about and how we can help.”
Networking will be essential, he said, though delayed through the ongoing pandemic. Through Zoom meetings where companies could connect and receive feedback, managers and members could hear about issues related to gay-friendly businesses, Haughinberry said. Targeting a younger demographic in community private business centers is another strategy, and doing so when travel is still fairly limited with COVID-19 is another hurdle.
“I hope they would want to sign up,” he said. “Maybe people might not want to be known as that community. I’ve never had a problem in Reno, and that’s my hope, that some would want to participate.
“In some communities, you have gossipers and cliques … but how are you going to support our community?” he said. “What are you going to do for the LGBTQs coming our way?”
Results from a University of California, Los Angeles School of Law Williams Institute study this year showed Nevada has about 92,000 LGBTQ+ workers, or about 6 percent of the state’s workforce. Haughinberry said more growth is expected by the end of 2021, which is why the GLCCNV is so keen to keep recruiting members all over the state.
“As we get more members, with more members comes more power and more attention,” he said. “I see us getting close to 200 by the end of next year. There’s going to be huge growth.”