“KIDS, SOMETIMES IT pays to be gay.”
That’s my favorite quote from the best episode of The Office— “Gay Witch Hunt.” It comes as Michael Scott inadvertently outs Oscar to the entire staff. Michael tries to show Oscar that he is accepting of his sexual orientation, but only ends up insulting him. The episode concludes with Oscar being offered a paid vacation to Europe and a company car to avoid a lawsuit. This sort of tongue-in-cheek humor offers a moment to reflect on where we stand as an LGBTQ community.
Since the episode’s original airing in 2006, the political gains in the LGBTQ movement have been tremendous. The momentum can easily be felt in Columbus as well. In recent years, the city government has passed an anti-discrimination ordinance in employment and housing based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The City also created a domestic partners registry for LGBTQ couples to ease access to certain basic rights. Kim Jacobs was appointed as Columbus’ first gay, female Chief of Police. We are setting the bar for a major city that is smart and open. In fact, the HRC Foundation ranks Columbus as one of the top cities nationwide for LGBTQ equality—on par with the coastal cities. It’s important to take pride in our political achievements, which have transformed our often overlooked city into an undeniable gay city. Not only was it the right thing to do, but it also made good business sense. From an economic stand point, it always pays to be gay. It’s called the pink dollar market.
"The buying power of the Columbus LGBTQ community is roughly $7.5 billion"
The pink dollar describes the buying power of the LGBTQ community. Buying power is not the same as wealth. Rather, it shows one critical measure of the growth and size of the highly sought out LGBTQ consumer market. Think of it as the total after-tax income available to an individual to spend in the local economy. Using 2011 data from the US Census, GayCensus, and The Media Audit, the pink dollar amount in Columbus is roughly $7.5 billion. That equates to about 8% of the metropolitan economy. That’s quite substantial when compared to other cities in the region and on the coasts.
Columbus’ prosperity is built on its ability to attract the rich, the clever, and the hard-working from all over Ohio, the United States, and the world. “I view [the LGBT community] as an opportunity to market to the rest of the country,” says Mayor Michael Coleman. “This is an asset of our city. The LGBT community is a community that is very creative, a community that brings a lot of opportunity with it. When I go out recruiting businesses, I say this is one of the reasons why they should relocate their business to Columbus.”
Growth has brought outsiders and outsiders have brought growth. Columbus has a creative buzz that makes it feel more like an affordable hybrid of San Francisco and Boston than a Cleveland or Cincinnati. Part of that has to do with the LGBTQ community and our pink dollars. We invest in neighborhoods, businesses, and people. As we elevate this city, we in turn elevate ourselves.