Why establishing certification for LGBTQ+ businesses is great for community — and even better for economy

Law figures to not only help existing businesses in the state grow, but bring many more here, allowing N.J. to grab even larger share of big LGBTQ+ economic impact

It’s nice to talk about wearing your diversity as a badge of honor on your sleeve — or putting a rainbow flag anywhere or on anything.

Acceptance … awareness — all good, too.

But, when you want to really discuss the impact of Gov. Phil Murphy signing the bill that codifies Executive Order No. 295 into law — the one that directs the Department of the Treasury to establish a certification for LGBTQ+-owned businesses, allowing them to gain access to certain contracting opportunities and government programs — you need to talk about where it means the most.

In the cash register.

Make no mistake, being the first state to codify such a law means a whole lot more than just a checkmark on the progressive list of goals.

It not only will help Jersey-based LGBTQ+ companies become eligible for more opportunities — it figures to encourage LGBTQ+-led companies in other states to come to Jersey. That’s economic development.

That’s the way Gus Penaranda, executive director of the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce, sees it.

“There are big dollars involved here,” he said. “All the studies have shown how much spending power the LGBTQ has — some say $1.7 trillion annually.”

As is the case with the spending power of the Hispanic and Black community, no one is really sure how big the spend is — although it almost certainly is bigger than estimated.

More than that, the bill will help bring more of those dollars to New Jersey.

“You can be sure that companies in states that are not friendly to the LGBTQ community have been watching this,” Penaranda said.

Murphy has been on board with all of this, going back to May 2022, when he signed Executive Order No. 295, which underscored that LGBTQ+ businesses are a crucial part of the state’s economic health and growth and are encouraged to conduct business in New Jersey.

The signing Wednesday ensured the order will last beyond the end of his administration.

“LGBTQ+ business owners are critical to the Garden State and our economy, and I am honored to support endeavors that uplift underrepresented communities and embrace authenticity,” he said. “By codifying this certification program in statute, we ensure that the opportunity to proudly identify as an LGBTQ+-owned business will last for many years to come.”

Certification, which is free of charge, expands access to contracting opportunities and enables businesses to proudly identify as LGBTQ+-owned in their advertising. The LGBTQ+-owned business certifications are overseen by the New Jersey Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services. Eligibility for certification requires that the business be at least 51% LGBTQ+-owned and -controlled. Certification is valid for five years, at which point the business must reapply for certification ahead of the expiration date.

As of Wednesday, the Department of the Treasury has certified 141 LBGTQ+ businesses across New Jersey.

“Dozens of businesses have become certified as an LGBTQ-owned enterprise since the launch of the program one year ago,” Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio said. “Treasury is proud to play a role in elevating LGBTQ-owned businesses, as well as small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned enterprises that help make up the backbone of our economy. I’d like to thank the dedicated staff of our Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services for their hard work behind the scenes to launch this program and help New Jersey businesses grow and thrive.”

Primary sponsors of the bill include state Sens. Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) and Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) as well as Assemblymen Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), Sterley Stanley (D-East Brunswick) and Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City).

“The codification of Executive Order 295 is not just a legal step, but a societal victory for LGBTQ+ businesses, granting them recognition they’ve long deserved,” Ruiz said.

“This certification parallels the support extended to minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned enterprises, offering equal footing for growth and access to vital resources.

“New Jersey is leading the way as the first state in the nation to codify this certification, and I am proud to have been a co-sponsor on this important bill. I thank Gov. Murphy for signing it into law and continuing to create new economic opportunities for our diverse and innovative businesses.”

Pou agreed.

“Businesses owned in whole or in part by LGBTQ+ individuals touch all aspects of the economy and add to the commercial diversity that is a rich part of our shared social identity,” she said. “This new law reaffirms the vital and emerging role those businesses play, and will continue to play in the civic and economic future of our state.”

Wimberly perhaps said it best.

“With this legislation, we remind businesses and, by extension, their owners, that they are not only welcomed, but encouraged to be a part of our communities,” he said.