MBA Orlando, the Orlando area’s LGBT chamber of commerce, is working to expand networking opportunities and government contract work for its members.

The group has about 275 member businesses and is one of the oldest such chambers in the nation, now in its 27th year.

Besides monthly gatherings in different locations around the Orlando area, the group also has more specialized “Red Group” networking for full members, which is category-exclusive referral group. (RED stands for Referral Exchange Development).  In other words, each RED Group has only one realtor, one dentist, one attorney in each legal speciality, etc.

Members of the chamber helped to establish the city’s Come Out With Pride parade and events in 2005, now one of the largest such events in Florida.

Kellie Parkin, executive director, said the chamber is “LGBTQ-friendly” meaning some businesses are simply allies of the community.

But a growing number of MBA Orlando’s members are getting certified through the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce or NGLCC.

Becoming a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise is conceived as a a step toward getting more contract awards from governments and national associations.

About 35 of MBA’s members are currently certified, Parkin said.

“We’re still working on getting Orlando and Orange County to recognize that certification in terms of diversity in contract awards,” Parkin said.

Its efforts to certify businesses are one of the factors that earned the business group top honors from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, as Chamber of the Year for 2017.

MBA stands for Metropolitan Business Association, which was a discreet term adopted when the group formed in 1992, a different era when it came to equal rights and recognition for gay people. Ten years after its founding, the Orlando group became a founding member of the national chamber.

Certification may require some proof of LGBT status, which can include a marriage certificate to a same-sex spouse, proof of living arrangements with a same-sex partner or letters of reference.

Some large federal agencies and pro sports organizations, including the National Basketball Association, already recognize LGBT certification.

Check out their website for more information about getting involved.