The state legislature begins its short session today. Regardless of the official calendar, the issue on many people’s minds is North Carolina’s new law limiting discrimination protections. Local business groups are calling for its repeal.
The offices of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce have a good view of all the downtown growth and construction underway.
President and CEO Tim Giuliani points out a new hotel being built and more.
“And normally, when we’re standing out in our parking lot you’ll hear a train come by. We hope to hear more of that in the future as we look to grow," said Giuliani.
But Giuliani and other chamber leaders are a little nervous about the future these days, ever since House Bill 2 was passed. One of the provisions in the controversial law prevents cities from enacting anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBT community.
“We immediately knew that was not going to be good for business, we knew it would impact economic development efforts," said Giuliani.
Giuliani’s members told him to stand up against House Bill 2. And as state and national opposition grew, the Greater Raleigh Chamber decided to go one step further.
“And as the weeks have unfolded, we’ve seen this now not only impact economic development, but it’s impacting tourism, it’s impacting conventions, it’s impacting our start-ups, it’s impacting our sporting events, it’s impacting our universities and colleges," said Giuliani. "And it’s time to ask our legislators to repeal this bill.”
Besides announcements about the loss of hundreds of potential jobs from PayPal in Charlotte and Deutsche Bank in Cary, Giuliani says House Bill 2 has pushed away a technology company, he wouldn’t name. He says it is no longer considering bringing 1,000 jobs to Wake County.
Aaron Nelson is President and CEO of the Chapel Hill–Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. He says they also want House Bill 2, to go away.
“HB2 gives businesses in North Carolina the right to discriminate, we never asked for that right. We reject it being offered and we hope that the legislature repeals HB2," said Nelson.
Nelson sits on the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. A group of 40 chamber CEOs met last week in Omaha, Nebraska and Nelson says, North Carolina and House Bill 2 were part of the discussion.
“There are some who feel for us, who’ve been in a similar spot. There’s others who are grateful this is happening, this enhances their ability to compete against us," said Nelson. "They use to compete against North Carolina for some of these corporate relocations and they think this gives them a competitive advantage.”
Despite the business community’s call to repeal House Bill 2, North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger says the legislature has no plans to consider doing that.
Geoff Durham is the President and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, which is also opposed to any part of House Bill 2.
Durham says now it’s time to devise a strategy to make sure the world knows Durham and the state are still open for business.
“It’s one thing to come out with a statement, which I am very, very proud of the statement that our organization made. But it’s another thing, what do you do next," said Durham.
That means the chambers may have to work harder to show North Carolina values diversity, even if the law isn’t repealed. In Chapel Hill and Carrboro, there are already signs being made saying, “Everyone is welcome here.” New Media Campaigns designed the sign.
Meanwhile, the 35,000 member North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in the state, says it is still analyzing the situation, and hasn’t taken a stand on House Bill 2.