LGBT Chamber names Penaranda its 1st full-time executive director

Former state official aims to increase opportunities for LGBT-certified business enterprises

Augusto Penaranda Jr. has been named the executive director of the New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the organization announced Monday morning.

Penaranda is the first full-time employee of the chamber, which is using the announcement of his hiring to the newly created position as the kickoff to its realignment plan.

In 2022, the chamber intends to showcase its organizational improvements in an effort to better serve the interests of its members’ businesses, aid in growing a stronger local economy and directly contribute toward shaping the LGBTQ+ community’s quality of life in the greater New Jersey region.

Stephen Blazejewski, president of the chamber, said the group’s main objective is to build an agenda that will help lead the organization in a new direction that will help revitalize Gov. Phil Murphy’s commitments to the LGBTQ community.

“We are very excited to welcome Augusto Penaranda as the chamber’s first executive director,” Blazejewski said. “The board has great confidence in his ability to help persuade Gov. Murphy’s team to build greater economic opportunities for the LGBT community.

“Although we are only in the first phase of the chamber’s 2022 Realignment Plan, our mission to build prosperity and resiliency for New Jersey’s LGBT community remains steadfast and stronger than ever. As a result, we hope to see more state contracts made available for business owners who are certified LGBT Business Enterprises.”

Blazejewski said LGBTBE certification provides for more equitable access to contracting opportunities through participating state and local government agencies as well as Fortune 500 companies, who are looking to increase their spend within the LGBT community.

The certification process is overseen by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. LGBTBEs are not yet acknowledged statewide; only three municipalities currently participate: Jersey City, Hoboken and Essex County.

Penaranda is the former public information officer for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General. In that role, he served directly under the former director, Paul Rodríguez, who now serves as the U.S. Department of Health’s deputy general counsel in President Joe Biden’s administration.

About the New Jersey LGBT Chamber

The New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commerce, founded in 2013, bills itself as the premier LGBT and allied business organization committed to facilitating successful business collaboration and increasing the economic staying power of its diverse membership. Its primary mission is to promote the economic growth and development of the local community, help to better serve its members’ businesses by providing resources and opportunities for education, networking and community engagement.

Blazeweski said Penaranda’s high-level understanding of, and experience within, New Jersey’s political system will be crucial in working with the Governor’s Office to ensure that LGBTBEs are recognized for statewide contracting opportunities moving forward.

Prior to this role, Penaranda served as the chief external relations officer for the American Red Cross of the New Jersey region in Princeton, where he designed dynamic programming, oversaw the organization’s key awareness campaign rollouts and served as the Latino media spokesperson.

Penaranda is a longtime member in the LGBT sports scene and is actively involved with the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association. He also enjoys volunteering and championing support for advocating the importance of mental health and wellness issues that the LGBT community faces.

Penaranda earned a master’s degree in international relations and public policy and a bachelor’s degree in political science from William Paterson.