CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Charlotte City Council voted to host the 2020 Republican National Convention in mid July, one of the selling points offered by the local host committee was their promise to include a variety of diverse local and small business vendors. But the local host committee’s leader isn’t committing publicly on whether the RNC’s “inclusive’ approach will include LGBTQ vendors.
John Lassiter, CEO of the local RNC host committee, expanded on his commitment to include diverse and small business vendors in a variety of interviews and statements to local media in the days following the July 16 vote.
“We will aggressively look to find a diverse vendor base,” Lassiter told the Charlotte Business Journal, saying he hoped as much as possible of the anticipated $70 million in spending for the convention will go to local small and minority-owned businesses.
What’s unclear, however, is whether the 2020 RNC will specifically include LGBTQ vendors as the city’s local DNC host committee and national committee did in 2012.
In the lead-up to the 2012 Democratic convention, local and national DNC committees adopted a diversity contracting policy that specifically sought to include minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as businesses owned by LGBTQ people, veterans and disabled people. The DNC also tracked their spending, ultimately reporting that three percent, or $1 million, had gone to LGBTQ-owned companies. That diversity contracting policy was adopted in March 2012, just a few months before the fall convention.
Lassiter and the local host committee’s framework agreement with the city requires them to “recognize the importance of supporting local businesses (including women, and minority-owned or other historically underutilized businesses) in contracting for goods and services for the Convention.” The agreement also says the host committee will use their “reasonable best efforts” to ensure inclusion of minority vendors and work with the City of Charlotte’s Business INClusion Program and its Minority, Women and Small Businesses Enterprise (MWSBE) Program.
The problem with that set-up — and the RNC’s non-committal on specific LGBTQ inclusion — is that the city MWSBE program does not specifically include LGBTQ-owned businesses. The city program includes only racial minorities and women.
In a statement to qnotes, Lassiter said the host committee is “committed to an open workforce and vendor opportunity strategy with a focus on local spend, inclusivity and diversity,” though he stopped short of specifically committing to a diversity contracting policy similar to the 2012 DNC.
“We have over two years to plan and will collaborate across public, private and civic entities to create an experience that community members feel a part of and are proud of,” Lassiter said in the statement. “We will also seek ways to elevate volunteer energy, impactful projects and inclusive dialogue.”
Local business advocates have said they hope the city will eventually include LGBTQ-owned businesses in its MWSBE program, a longtime goal for LGBTQ advocates in Charlotte.
Until then, short of a definitive RNC policy or public commitment, there’s no guarantee that any convention money will flow to LGBTQ small businesses in Charlotte and no way to track it.