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Chamber honors companies supporting LGBTQ+ community

Veronica Brezina



Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, left, Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber CEO and President Justice Gennari and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch at the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber's 2023 State of the Chamber event. Photo provided.

Tampa Bay Lightning team members, financial analysts from banks and city officials were among the 350 attendees showing their pride for the colorful LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community during the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber’s Tuesday luncheon. 

The Chamber represents over 600 businesses, community groups and individuals in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk and Hernando counties with the mission of advancing equality in the workplace for allied businesses by providing networking and community engagement.

In 2022, the Chamber added 75 new members and 21 new LGBT Business Enterprises (certified LGBT-owned businesses). It also hosted over 120 programs and events, Chamber President and CEO Justice Gennari said onstage at the State of the Chamber event in the Bryan Glazer Family JCC center in Tampa. 

Over 350 people attended the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber’s annual event. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

During the event, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor spoke on the importance of the LGBTE certification, recognizing the LGBT and minority-owned businesses, as it can open doors to contracting with the City of Tampa and other municipalities working to diversify their economy. 

Castor also commended the Tampa Police Department’s efforts on inclusive progress within the police force. 

“We all have liaisons to the LGBT community to ensure everyone is safe and bridge those gaps,” said Castor, Tampa’s former police chief. “It is incumbent upon each of us to understand our responsibility in ensuring that our community remains welcoming and that we value every single individual.” 

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch joined her onstage adding, “It’s a no-brainer DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] should be something that we are proud of, that we talk about and that we celebrate. Know that you have a strong partner in the City of St. Petersburg.”

The Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber’s awards. Photo provided. 

The Chamber also took the opportunity at the event to present awards to LGBT-supporting businesses.

Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, there was a three-year hiatus on the award presentations; however, the Chamber didn’t skip naming the past and new award recipients this year. 

Meet the award recipients announced at the State of the Chamber event:  

The following awardees have contributed to helping raise the vulnerable LGBT community through initiatives and programs such as hosting Pride events, providing safe workspaces and/or are LGBTE-certified businesses. 

2019 President’s Award: BKN Creative: BKN Creative is an LGBT, family-owned and operated full-service boutique marketing agency in Tampa. 

2020 President’s Award: Regions Bank: The bank has previously been named a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” and received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index (CEI). 

2021 President’s Award: Tampa Bay Lightning: The hockey team annually hosts Pride Night where the team dedicates the game to celebrate the inclusion of everyone in the sport, the proceeds of which go to designated local non-profits within the Tampa Bay LGBTQ+ community. This year’s Pride Night will take place March 7 when the Lightning face the Philadelphia Flyers in Tampa at Amalie Arena. 

2022 – 2023 President’s Award: The Regent: The company is a large venue operator in Hillsborough County. After receiving the award, the company wrote on Facebook, “We do not take the title of community center lightly, we love being a place that is safe for everyone in our community to have memory making experience.” 

2022 – 2023 Corporation of the Year: Grow Financial: The credit union has participated in St. Pete Pride events and has a diversity committee. 

2022 – 2023 Non-Profit of the Year: CAN Community Health: The health care group provides essential services to those living with and impacted by HIV in Tampa Bay.

2022 – 2023 Small Business of the Year: ABC Events: It’s a local LGBT-owned business that provides event planning services. 

2022 – 2023 LGBTE of the Year: Watermark Media: Watermark is an LGBT publication and media company covering news in Central Florida and Tampa Bay. 

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