A political endorsement for Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Schuette is rapidly backfiring for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. In fact, the largest brewery in Michigan, Founders Brewing Company, has terminated its membership along with a number of other companies large and small.
Grand Rapids media outlets are reporting that more than 50 other area businesses had signed off onto a letter strongly encouraging the Chamber to rescind the Schuette endorsement threatening their own termination plans if the endorsement stands.
The letter suggests, "Mr. Schuette has a disheartening track record that reflects a flippant disregard for the rights of vulnerable Michiganders," referring to their belief that Schuette is not supportive of LGBT members of the community, and his stance on several environmental issues.
Founders Brewing Company concurred, Tweeting: "We stand with our LGBTQ community and ask that the @GRChamber reverse their decision. We will be terminating our membership in the meantime and encourage our fellow local businesses to consider doing the same."
The Grand Rapids Pride Center issues a statement that says, in part, "It is with deep disappointment that our staff and Board of Directors share the the Grand Rapids Pride Center will suspend any further partnership with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and any of its programs, including OutPro, in response to their endorsement of Bill Schuette for Governor."
Among those who have followed Founders Brewing out the door are The Winchester restaurant, Donkey Taqueria, 384 Design & Marketing, and Creston Brewery.
Grand Rapids Chamber President & CEO Rick Baker issued a statement acknowledging concerns over the endorsement, saying in part, "We have heard the response to our recent GR Chamber PAC endorsement of Bill Schuette for Governor and the frustration and disappointment from members of our business community, particularly as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion," adding, "We understand our endorsement decisions do not take place in a vacuum and we are open to dialogue to understand the impact of our decisions."
The member letter from those opposed calls the Chamber's decision "unconscionable," and argues that Schuette's agenda "is directly at odds with the Chamber's positioning itself as a diversity and inclusion champion." They call for the endorsement to be retracted.
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is from Schuette's keynote speech at the Business Recognition Breakfast at LMC last February, and is used for illustration purposes only.