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Lesbian and Gay Xpo returns to Ottawa

Networking event connects businesses and community groups

Donald Walker, left, and Justin Minnes are reviving the Gay and Lesbian Xpo, a networking event for LGBT businesses and community groups previously hosted by Xtra. Credit: Julie Cruikshank

After a seven-year hiatus in Ottawa, the Lesbian and Gay Xpo (LGX) is making a return in October. Originally hosted by Xtra on an annual basis, the Xpo was put on hiatus in 2008. Now a pair of local businessmen have taken up the cause and plan to revive the event, reestablishing it as a sought-after networking opportunity for businesses, community groups and the LGBT community. 

Justin Minnes and Donald Walker both come from business backgrounds; Walker has spent nearly 30 years in insurance and owns his own small brokerage, while Minnes used to be a small-business owner and now works with other businesses and individuals doing strategic planning. They met at a networking event and later decided to work together to bring back LGX.

“There was sort of some chatter about bringing it back and people were interested to see it again, but no one was willing to kind of pop in and take the lead on it,” Minnes says. But with the help of a small team of organizers, plans are underway for a one-day event held the first Saturday in October. The pair also contacted previous organizers to get a sense of how the event should be run. “We knew we wanted to do it, but it was sort of the technical aspects of how do you get it done.”

Walker, who is active in the gay community, says he and Minnes wanted to keep their updated version of LGX as close in format to previous events as possible. This includes holding the event at Jack Purcell Community Centre, its original home. “It really is basically about getting the community groups in there and mixing them in with the business groups, whether they’re gay or straight or not,” he says. “Mixing the community together — that was our biggest goal.”

While LGX is no longer run by Xtra, Minnes and Walker have worked closely with Xtra sales team leader Lorilynn Barker, who has provided information from previous years, including community contacts. Xtra is also an exclusive print media sponsor and will have a booth at the Xpo.

In the past, LGX offered workshops and seminars on topics relevant to the community. In a pre-same-sex-marriage world, these often included talks on spousal arrangements, financial planning and how partners who were not legal spouses could best enter into real-estate agreements, such as home ownership. Today the climate is very different and the issues pertinent to the LGBT community have changed significantly, with more couples choosing to marry and raise families.

Walker says that in response to changing demographics, workshops will focus on current issues facing the LGBT community, including a talk by lawyer Jennifer C Johnson on LGBT adoption. He says that while this year’s Xpo will be smaller, he hopes it will grow in upcoming years and says that it’s an important opportunity to connect people with services and organizations they may not know about.

Participating businesses include Ministry of Coffee, Burke-Robertson LLP, Investors Group and MW Design. Community groups include CAS Ottawa, Jer’s Vision and the Ottawa Senior Pride Network. “There isn’t really a defined gamut,” Minnes says. “If you’re in the area and you’re interested and you’re local, we’d like to have you out.”

LGX Ottawa takes place Sat, Oct 4, 10am–5pm, at Jack Purcell Community Centre, 320 Jack Purcell Lane.
Xpo is free to attend. Tables are available to community groups at no charge and to businesses for $150. A special early-bird rate of $125 is available until Sept 15.

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This story is filed under News & Ideas, Gay Business, Ottawa, News
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