The Chamber's History
In December 2015, two members of the Houston LGBT business community, Tammi Wallace and Gary Wood, were in discussions with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce about launching an affiliate chamber in Houston. On February 24, 2016, the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce officially launched. The launch event was held in conjunction with a “LGBT Business Builders” event sponsored by the Small Business Administration and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Other collaborating partners for the event were Affinity Magazine, Houston Community College and OutSmart Magazine.
The event was held at the Houston Community College - West Loop Campus. Tammi Wallace and Gary Wood, Chamber Co-Founders announced the launch of the new Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce and unveiled the new Chamber logo. Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen addressed the crowd of over 100 business owners and key stakeholders with welcoming remarks and she noted the historical significance of the official launch of the new Greater Houston LGBT Chamber.
As Chamber Co-Founders, Tammi Wallace and Gary Wood, were instrumental in creating the vision for the new Chamber and recruited key Steering Committee members to support the ramp up of operations. The Steering Committee has played an integral role in operationalizing the Chamber.
The original members of the 2016 Chamber Steering Committee are Roy Alvarez, Jr., Jon Marrs, Jonathan Netak, Tammi Wallace (Steering Committee Co-Chair) and Gary Wood (Steering Committee Co-Chair). Each of these individuals believed strongly that the Chamber could have a remarkable impact for the LGBT business community and its allies. They each have dedicated a remarkable investment of time and energy in the organization’s inaugural year, thus laying a strong foundation for the Chamber.
The Chamber Steering Committee collaborated with the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce in order to launch the organization as quickly as possible. Through the tremendous support of Tony Vedda, CEO of the North Texas Chamber, the Houston Chamber was able to initially get up and running within a very short period of time. The Houston Chamber owes a debt of gratitude to Tony and the North Texas Chamber Board for their leadership, support and friendship. As a result of the strong relationship developed during the initial launch year, the Houston Chamber continues to collaborate with North Texas on various initiatives including statewide advocacy/policy initiatives and sharing of best practices.
One of the first opportunities presented for LGBT business owners is the Business Connect program, which is the NFL’s supplier diversity program. Houston is designated as the 2017 host city for Super Bowl LI. Chamber leadership worked in early 2015 to ensure that LGBTBE certified businesses would be eligible to participate in the Business Connect program and continues to work with the Super Bowl Host Committee leadership throughout 2016.
In a short time, the Chamber has grown tremendously, and the organization is on track to rollout major programming, member resources and other opportunities going forward in its first year of operation. It’s an exciting time to be part of the new Greater Houston LGBT Chamber. Join the Chamber and help us make history!
As of May 2016