Golden Gate Business Association Welcomes You
to GGBA’s 40th Anniversary Celebration!
By Dawn Ackerman, Robb Fleischer and Paul Pendergast
On behalf of the Board of Directors, Past Presidents, Staff and Membership, we welcome you to the Golden Gate Business Association’s 40th Anniversary special commemorative issue, made possible through the generosity of our friends at the San Francisco Bay Times.
In 1974, as the streets of the Castro were awakening to a movement that would forever change San Francisco, California and the world, there were also several courageous entrepreneurs who decided that it was time that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender business owners needed to stand and be counted. When they created the GGBA, it was the spark that began a worldwide movement. Because of those forward-thinking entrepreneurs, there are now 38 LGBT Chambers of Commerce across the United States. Beyond our borders, there are now 15 LGBT Chambers spanning the globe that are not only addressing the economic development needs of their respective communities, but they are also serving as beacons of hope for equal rights, greater respect and inclusiveness.
These are exciting times for our community. They are also incredibly exciting times for our LGBT business community as we begin a new chapter in creating jobs, driving commerce to our LGBT brother and sister businesses, and showing the business world that being inclusive of our community leads to innovation, financial growth and community empowerment.
Anniversaries are a unique and wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past while we connect with the present. Even more exciting is that there is much to be accomplished in the future and we want you to be a part of it! We invite you to join the GGBA as we embark on our next 40 years of creating access to opportunity. Together we will build even stronger LGBT businesses that will benefit our employees, our families and our communities. Joining us is just a ‘click’ away at ggba.com
Continued success to all of us!
Dawn Ackerman of OutSmart Office Solutions is the Vice President of GGBA. Robb Fleischer of AMSI Real Estate Services is GGBA’s incoming President. Paul Pendergast of Pendergast Consulting Group is the Chair of GGBA’s Public Policy Committee.
GGBA: Leading the Way for LGBT Businesses and Our Community for Four Decades
By Roger Gross
GGBA was established in 1974 by fifty-four men and women who were small business and real estate owners. They were aware, in the early days of gay liberation, that their issues as business owners were not being articulated or addressed.
It is significant that the early printed materials of the Association did not use the terms “gay,” “lesbian” or “homosexual,” though the materials did talk about “our community.” Their mission statement read:
“We, a group of business people, join together in an association for mutual aid, communication and working together to promote business and to establish relationships with other business people and associations.”
Theirs was the first act of leadership for GGBA.
The GGBA was the first business league of its kind at that time, and became the model for the wealth of later associations that organized across the country. Rick Stokes, and then John Schmidt, served as President.
At the GGBA installation dinner in 1976, John Schmidt asked then mayor George Moscone to speak. Mayor Moscone came. That was my first GGBA event, and it was a very heady affair. The air was electric. At that time it was unheard of for a mayor to address our community. The mayor’s presence marked our coming out as a community, and acknowledged the GLBT community as a valid political and social block. It also established GGBA as the leadership of that block.
We were the leaders in the community, and we showed that LGBT activists were not people on the fringe, but were people in the mainstream. We showed that we were everywhere—in all walks of life, in all neighborhoods and in all trades and in all professions. We marched in the Gay Day parades under banners of our trades and professions.
As leaders in the community, we paid attention to what was happening in the larger community in order to monitor what affected us as business people and as citizens.
In the late 1970s, our Community Relations Committee, under the leadership of Jerry Robinson, established the Police Awareness Program. GGBA members worked with members of the Police Academy and spent a Saturday evening with them, taking them to dinner and drinks and talking about themselves, their lives and concerns, so that new police officers had the opportunity to know LGBT people on a human level. It was no longer “me” and “them,” it was “us,” and we were a community. In this way, as role models we were human beings, and we therefore challenged the stereotypes of who gay and lesbian citizens are.
In 1979, GGBA with Arthur Lazare as President spoke out against then World Airways for its homophobic corporate policies and led a boycott against them. We secured one of the first corporate non-discrimination policies for gay and lesbians. Special interests? No! Basic human rights and solid business policy-leadership? Yes!
Around that time too, the President of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce was publicly making homophobic remarks. We challenged those remarks, and began a dialogue with the Chamber of Commerce that not too much later resulted in the Chamber coming out in favor of AB1, a gay/lesbian non-discrimination bill. We took an activist leadership role and said this behavior is not OK.
As business leaders, we were active participants in establishing the Small Business Network, as well as being prime movers in the creation of the Small Business Advisory Commission. We led the way to find a place for small business interests in the larger corporate business community of San Francisco.
As a business organization too, we were the first LGBT organization to establish a Code of Ethics by which all members agreed to abide. This was an act of leadership. The GGBA Code of Ethics became the model that was used by other such business groups at a time when being identified as an LGBT business was tainted by assumptions of sloppy business practices and simply trading on our identification.
We were also aware of our need as business people and community leaders to take care of our own. There were no philanthropic organizations that addressed the altruistic needs within our community. On the contrary, the mainstream philanthropies shied away from LGBT issues because of homophobia and simply because of the lack of consciousness of our needs, concerns and issues.
In 1980, we established the GGBA Foundation, which provided seed money to worthy charitable, educational and cultural projects within our community. We were the first. The GGBA Foundation was built on the cornerstone of responsible philanthropy: administrative costs were kept to a minimum and organizations were accountable to us for the use of the grant money. We helped our recipients learn fiscal responsibility and the need for budgets and reporting. We helped them conduct their affairs in a business-like manner. We were role models. The GGBA Foundation has since become the Horizons Foundation, a well-respected leader in LGBT philanthropy nationally.
The mid-80s were a difficult time for us as a community, as well as an organization. GGBA was devastated by the deaths of our leaders and our members. It was a time for us as an organization and as a community to step back, re-group and reorganize in order to weather the devastating storm that was upon us. Under the leadership of Dave Wharton, and a very dedicated and hard-working board, this organization survived and continued in its position as spokesperson for issues of concern to the LGBT business community.
GGBA reemerged in the 1990s somewhat changed. While GGBA was originally an organization of small business people and commercial property owners, GGBA was now far more inclusive. It welcomed everyone interested in business—owners, employees, small businesses and corporations. While there was room for everyone, we continued to focus on the unique needs of our small business heritage. GGBA started its highly successful Business Exchange Network under the presidency of Paul Pendergast and the leadership of Joel Goodrich.
A final heritage, which is obvious but must be articulated, is our inclusiveness. There is room for everyone in GGBA— liberals, conservatives, professionals, tradespeople, business owners and employees. We are a non-partisan organization. To be a member, one only needs to care about our community, about responsible business, and about making ours a more conscious and stronger community.
GGBA provides a forum where everyone can come together to find a common ground and develop a common language. That gives us our strength and is our contribution to the community.
Attorney Roger Gross co-founded the GGBA Foundation and served as its first board President.