GPGLCC Celebrates 35 Years

By Megan Wadding, Jan. 1, 2015.

Throughout 2015 the Greater Phoenix Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will celebrate 35 years as an entity that promotes and protects the interests of the LGBT business community

This milestone will be celebrated as part of various GPGLCC events throughout the year ahead, the first of which is a private luncheon – open to members, past chamber chairs and boardmembers only due to limited seating – at the Graduate Hotel in Tempe Jan. 9.

“We’re going to have some of the past chairs share stories about what the Chamber was like 15 and 20 years ago,” said Joseph Gesullo, GPGLCC chairman. “We’re sharing the day with Phoenix Pride and the Men’s Chorus, [because] all three of us are having anniversaries this year and we want to give them time to also share what they’re doing.”

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Phoenix Pride and the 25th season of the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus, both of which will be included in the celebratory luncheon.

Additionally, the GPGLCC will host an official 35th anniversary party in April, open to the general public, which will double as a formal kickoff to the 10 days of Phoenix Pride.

The GPGLCC, the oldest gay chamber in the nation, has accomplished many things over the years, but what Gesullo is most proud of is its ever-expanding diversity.

“One of our biggest accomplishments is bringing the whole community together,” he said. “Right now, the chamber is 60 percent LGBT and 40 percent ally. Anyone who wants to be a part of the chamber is welcome.”

The GPGLCC was the recipient of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Chamber of the Year Award in 2005 and has been recently seeing record member growth, according to Gesullo, who added that he’s noticed more allies wanting to join, particularly in 2014.

“In the past year, since SB1062 and marriage equality, allies have shown a bigger interested in wanting to join the chamber to show that they  support the community,” Gesullo said.

According to Gesullo, the sixth annual Festival of Trees, a fundraising event that takes place each December, raised more money in 2014 than all other previous years combined.

A New Year

The Phoenix Chamber has many new endeavors planned for 2015, according to Bobby Gordon, GPGLCC’s marketing director.

“We just updated our mission statement and that really helped us focus on what we’re going to be doing over the next few months and years,” Gordon said. “Our primary goals focus on fostering an inclusive business environment that fosters business growth, visibility for our members, professional development opportunities and community outreach. Everything we’re doing over the next few months to few years will be centered on those four pillars.”

Gordon explained that these pillars will also be fulfilled by their plan to introduce more diverse events and more events held in conjunction with other organizations.

“We’re a community with many faces and many interests, and although many of the community events are held at bars, we’re hoping to broaden that spectrum by including a lot of cultural events, nights out at sporting events and those types of things,” he added. “We’re doing a lot of great things … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Other than the chamber’s signature annual events, such as Biz Bowl and Festival of Trees, Gordon said the Chamber would like to increase community outreach by specifically sponsoring more LGBT nights around town.

“We’re going to be sponsoring many more of the LGBT nights out,” he said. “I’d look for a night out at the Phoenix Suns, who just joined the chamber. We will have another night out at the ballet in the fall.”

A New Look

According to Gordon, the GPGLCC will highlight three new programs throughout the year ahead.

First, the chamber, along with a corporate sponsor, is creating an LGBT youth mentorship and internship program, which will launch in the spring in conjunction with both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona semester schedules .

“We want to connect LGBT youth with LGBT and allied business owners in the community,” Gordon said. “Business owners will agree to mentor a LGBT youth in the community or maybe meet once a month. There will also be quarterly leadership institutes, lectures, seminars and other professional development opportunities, as well as showing the youth some real business options for their career.”

Another program the chamber will highlight in 2015 will be the new LGBT business resource group, which, according to Gordon, will help foster a link between diversity groups and local allied businesses.

“Many larger corporations have a diversity council or a diversity or LGBT resource organization internally,” he said. “These are groups of employees who meet regularly to talk about diversity and LGBT issues. We, as the chamber, want to be the central communication place for those affinity groups to connect with the LGBT community and also connect those employees with the resources in town through LGBT and allied business owners, who are our members.”

The chamber will also be re-launching the Business Equality Index (BEI), which was previously established as a bi-annual survey that allows for the evaluation of businesses based on their LGBT equality efforts. In 2015, Gordon said the BEI will re-launch as an annual project.

“[The BEI] is for any business that has a footprint in or is owned and operated in Phoenix. They’re all able to complete the BEI,” explained Gordon. “Starting in 2015, it will be an annual survey to allow businesses to be recognized for their [LGBT equality efforts].”

With such a solid, successful foundation and so many new projects and programs in the works, Gesullo and Gordon agree that the GPGLCC is looking toward a bright future in the community.

For information about events or membership, visit

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