CABO wins LGBT Chamber of the Year Award

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September 6, 2011NEW HAVEN, CT-Merely four years since its launch, the Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunity (CABO) has made a big splash, to say the least. Under the direction of executive director Jenn Tracz Grace and founder and President Dena Castricone , the Connecticut-based LGBT Chamber of Commerce was awarded one of the highest awards in the nation-_Chamber of the Year_ from the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), a business advocate and direct link between LGBT business owners, corporations and government.

“This award is an incredible honor for CABO, and a tribute to the businesses across Connecticut who are united in publicly supporting LGBT people and leveraging the community buying power of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Tracz Grace.

Castricone added that this honor has not only affected her, but has also added to membership benefits.

“Words cannot describe how proud I am of the amazing work of our board of directors and executive director,” she said. “Of course, our members are at the center of all we do and I am most happy for our members because I know that this award increases the value of membership.”

According to Tracz Grace, being recognized with this award puts CABO on the national map.

“… all of the hard work that we put in on the local level is being recognized nationally,” she said. “This award shows the power and strength of the Connecticut LGBT community, which is something we can all be proud of.”

Like much business development, CABO was born out an inherent need and Castricone took the lead.

“In looking for a local LGBT chamber, I discovered that no such organization existed,” she said.  “I attended the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Out for Business conference in Montreal where I met several chamber leaders and learned about the chamber movement – it was so much more than providing networking opportunities for LGBT professionals.  It was about social change through economic impact. I was inspired and decided to start a chamber in Connecticut.”

Founded in 2007, CABO has achieved impressive growth in the past year, with a rapidly growing membership base across the state. Currently, the chamber has over 150 members and has focused on developing significant corporate relationships with business members of all sizes to give an economic edge to those who support equality and justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the state. According to Tracz Grace, this honor will propel CABO’s initiatives forward.

“This award will give us additional footing to grow the organization in other areas of Connecticut and beyond our 4 borders,” she said.
“We’ve expanded quite rapidly in the almost 4 years we have been around. We started off with a heavy focus in New Haven County and over the past 1-2 years we’ve made a sizeable impact in both Fairfield and Hartford Counties. While we are active in these 3 counties there are still 5 others that we haven’t tapped into yet. With a national chamber of the year win under our belt, it gives us the strength and confidence to move into other areas of the state and do it successfully, creating opportunities for our members involved.”

In addition to a solid infrastructure and vision that Castricone created, she credits much of CABO’s success to Tracz’s efforts.

“Her passion, dedication and drive are the reason that CABO experienced such incredible growth in the past two years,” Castricone said.

Despite difficult economic times, Tracz Grace said that there are still many business opportunities to seize. CABO and its members have capitalized on that philosophy.

“Many of our member businesses are hiring and thriving in a down economy and CABO is serving as a driving force in helping promote those opportunities to other members,” Tracz Grace said. “We have a job board available on our website where our members can share opportunities with one another and we are often asked if we know of the right people for the job when one becomes available. If you are with an LGBT chamber of commerce and you are providing value to your members, even in a down economy your members will see your value and want to be a part of something greater.”

Tracz Grace and Castricone accepted the award on behalf of CABO at the NGLCC National Business & Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada last month.

“CABO has far exceeded my expectations,” said Castricone.

For more information about CABO or to join the successful organization, please visit: www.thecabo.org.
By: Christine Nicco/TRT Reporter

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