North Carolina businesses fear effects of bathroom bill / Public News Service


North Carolina’s business community is alarmed after Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson praised the controversial House Bill 2, known as the “Bathroom Bill,” at a private lunch.

The 2016 law required individuals to use bathrooms matching their gender at birth and prevented local nondiscrimination ordinances.

Raleigh business owner David Meeker, whose livelihood depends on tourism, recalled the economic damage HB 2 caused. Now, Meeker and others worry a resurgence of similar policies could cause North Carolina economic harm by driving away potential businesses.

“My development company relies on people and businesses continuing to move to Raleigh and North Carolina and it being a good place to do business,” he said. “House Bill 2 negatively impacted that too, and I think we’re still feeling some of that impact even now, eight years later.”

During its implementation, the bill led several major businesses, including PayPal, to cancel expansions, costing the state nearly $4 billion in lost investments and about 3,000 jobs. The NCAA and NBA also moved major events out of North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper repealed the bill in 2017.

Susan Sawin, owner of Island Bookstores on the Outer Banks, echoed these sentiments. She said the fallout from HB 2 hurt businesses such as hers that depend on events and foot traffic.

“All across the state, it was bad for business in 2017-18, and it would be bad for business again,” she said. “So, for Mark Robinson to say publicly that the bathroom bill was the ‘best thing that ever happened to the state,’ it’s just a flat-out lie.”

With North Carolina twice named “America’s Top State for Business” under Cooper, Meeker said he hopes the state continues to maintain that title. He said business owners are urging inclusivity and a focus on making sure the state remains a top destination for business and tourism.

“It is a huge concern to small, medium and big businesses,” said Meeker, “and we really do need a governor who’s bringing business here and encouraging tourism, versus a governor whose plan would literally be to do the opposite.”

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce has also raised concerns about controversial ideologies and their impact on the business climate in the state.

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