USHCC’s Palomarez says,“We are our brother’s keepers”

April 4, 2014  |  By Melissa Lowery, Photos by Elizabeth Parker Photographie, Affinity Inc

For the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a commitment to advocating on behalf of the LGBT community is a commitment to bringing together two communities that are learning to embrace each other. USHCC’s efforts on behalf of LGBT business owners transcend emotional and social issues and are, quite simply, good for American business.

"USHCC is first and foremost a business organization,” said Javier Palomarez, USHCC president and CEO. "We look at everything through this lens of commerce, and economics, and job creation and so forth. While LGBT issues are often seen as human rights or civil rights, we believe that discrimination against any group poses a serious threat to a healthy and thriving business environment.” USHCC actively promotes the economic growth, development and interests of more than 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses that contribute over $468 billion to the American economy every year. It also advocates on behalf of 211 major American corporations and serves as the umbrella organization for more than 200 local chambers and business associations nationwide. In recent years, USHCC has launched initiatives to reach out to LGBT business owners, seeking to build a coalition that benefits all businesses — no matter the shape, size, color or gender. This focus on inclusion is a refl    of the diversity of USHCC’s membership and the organization’s own professional environment.


"We’re blessed to have a wide array of personalities, cultures, genders, ages, religions and sexual orientations,” Palomarez said. "I think that the whole team at USHCC tries to live a set of values that embrace a different thought and a variety of perspectives. I think for us, it’s something that we value as a competitive advantage for what we do and who we are. That diversity informs the strategies around everything we do.” Those strategies target two areas in particular — fighting discriminatory legislation and recognizing those in corporate America who advocate for the LGBT community within the business sphere. Earlier this year, USHCC partnered with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, corporate America and other business organizations to fight a bill put forth by the Arizona state legislature that would have allowed businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians based on religious objections. A national outcry arose over this attempt to curtail civil rights, but the bill also struck USHCC as a potentially devastating piece of legislation for Arizona’s economy. "The reality of the bill is that it goes beyond the gay and lesbian community,” Palomarez explained. "Once you start getting into that realm, it is a very slippery slope. Through a concerted effort between business groups and corporate America, we were able to pressure Gov. Jan Brewer into vetoing what we considered to be a terrible bill — terrible certainly for the gay and lesbian community, but even more terrible for the Arizona economy.”


Excluding segments of the consumer base is a surefire way to curtail economic growth, he said. Not only are customers turned away, it sets a precedent to discourage diverse business owners from expansion and job creation. "We work on behalf of American small business,” Palomarez said. "And, sometimes that American small business is owned by a Hispanic person; sometimes it’s owned by a straight person. Sometimes it’s owned by a woman; sometimes it’s owned by a LGBT individual. Sometimes it’s owned by an African American. But, at the end of the day, they’re all American small businesses. So, we see that as part of our accountability.”


Recognition of individuals and corporations who are advocates for the LGBT community is another important part of USHCC’s initiative. At the 2013 USHCC National Convention, the organization held its fi    LGBT business leaders reception and presented the inaugural LGBT Business Advocate Award to George Carrancho of American Airlines Inc. He was honored for his dedication in leading American Airlines’ outreach to LGBT and Hispanic partners and supporting the growing travel needs of those communities. "American Airlines has been a strong ally and a strong partner of ours and of the gay and lesbian community,” Palomarez said.

From left: Gissel Gazek Nicholas, vice president, strategic programs; and Sebastian Ontiveros, excutive assistant to the president; meet with Javier Palomarez and DeVere Kutscher.

"It sees that thriving, upwardly mobile, loyal consumer segment as one that is critical to its bottom line. George has, in our mind, illustrated some visionary leadership in terms of bridging the relationships that exist between American Airlines and the broader business community, LGBT business community and other nonprofits like USHCC.” Carrancho, in turn, lauds USHCC for its commitment to embracing, recognizing and advocating for the LGBT community. "I was deeply touched that the chamber felt so strongly about its commitment to LGBT partners and engagement that I was honored with the very first LGBT Business Advocate Award,” he said. "That [honor] spoke volumes about the chamber’s dedication to equality and respect for all.” USHCC plans to continue to celebrate and acknowledge those individuals within corporate America and the public sector who exemplify the courage and leadership necessary to ensure that the LGBT community takes its rightful place at the table, Palomarez said. 


"The challenge will be to ensure that corporate America gets more and more comfortable exercising its right to an opinion in matters of discrimination,” he said. "We want to support leaders like the people at AT&T, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo who have taken an active role and said, ‘You know what, this is perhaps more on the social issues spectrum. But, the reality is that we won’t tolerate it. We don’t tolerate it in our workplace, and we won’t tolerate it in the marketplace.’” The recent national spotlight on LGBT and small business issues is a strong motivator for USHCC, which has set the goal of being accountable for its LGBT constituency, as well as other minority business owners. "We will continue to look across the aisle and make sure that we act as our brother’s keepers,” Palomarez said with conviction. "It’s about continuing the collaboration, continuing to remind America that American small business comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, orientations, etc. [LGBT inclusion in the marketplace] creates economic development; it all creates jobs; it all pays taxes.”


USHCC Allies Recognize Importance of LGBT Business Community


Catherine M. Pino and Ingrid M. Duran, co-founders, D&P Creative Strategies LLC 
We have seen USHCC grow in its support of the LGBT community over the last several years under the strong leadership of Javier Palomarez and his senior team, including DeVere Kutscher. As lesbian Latina business owners, we have enjoyed a very strong relationship with USHCC, and Javier has always been extremely supportive of us and our business. In fact, we were the only Latina lesbian small business owners featured in USHCC’s 2011 national advertising campaign. We very much appreciate the working relationship we have built with the chamber. Its partnership with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has also grown over the last several years. In fact, just last week, USHCC joined the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, US Business Leadership Network® and National Black Justice Coalition to defeat a discriminatory state public policy by calling on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto Senate Bill 1062! USHCC truly understands that the LGBT community is an integral part of the overall Latino community, and many of us are small business owners.


From left: Catherine Pino and Ingrid Duran

USHCC is a vital organization within the Latino community, and its support of LGBT issues is imperative; after all, we are part of the fabric of America. Simply put, inclusion is good business, and USHCC understands that. Latino and LGBT businesses are growing, and there will be more opportunities to bring these two groups together to create new business ventures!


Brian Hall, manager, suppler diversity and outreach, small business office, Shell Oil Co. 
I’ve enjoyed seeing the leadership of USHCC recognize, from the podium, the importance of the LGBT business community to the overall success of the chamber and its member corporations like Shell. This message was delivered and supported consistently throughout 2013 by the leadership of USHCC. It is a genuine reminder that we all share in the success of economic development. It is equally important that we all leverage collaboration opportunities in order to minimize duplication of efforts, while providing the best future-facing creative solutions.


George Carrancho, manager, diversity segments, American Airlines Inc. 
For years in my role with American Airlines, I have been lucky to work with diverse communities and business leaders. USHCC stands head-and-shoulders above the crowd in terms of its spirit of inclusion and its determination to grow economic opportunity and that means welcoming all. As a proud gay Hispanic executive, I straddle communities, families and markets just as it does. USHCC recognizes that economic success stems from hard work and teamwork the very kind that leaves no business owners or individuals behind, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These inclusive values are the exact same ones we share at American Airlines and help explain our success in growing loyal customers and market share. I was also deeply touched that the chamber felt so strongly about its commitment to LGBT partners and engagement that I was honored with the very first LGBT Business Advocate Award at the USHCC annual conference last year. That spoke volumes about the chamber’s dedication to equality and respect for all. In a very competitive economy and a quickly changing world, every customer matters. The USHCC leaders understand that the only real way to grow opportunity is to be inclusive, fairminded and welcoming. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community makes a vibrant part of the marketplace, and many LGBT people happen to include Hispanic business leaders, families and households. The language of business is neither exclusively English nor Spanish. It’s really the language of inclusion, and successful businesses are those that practice what they preach in terms of acceptance and respect. We are especially proud that American Airlines is only one of a handful of corporations that has earned a perfect 100 percent record on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index every single year — but even prouder today that hundreds of companies follow this example. Last week, our CEO made our philosophy even clearer by urging Arizona’s Governor to veto a bill that would harm the vibrant Arizona economy with LGBT discriminatory policies, by saying "Our economy thrives best when the doors of commerce are open to all.”

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