Business recruiters are hopeful that a House Bill 2 repeal compromise signed into law Thursday will open doors for North Carolina that closed a year ago when HB2 first became law.
Since HB2’s passage in March 2016, economic development officials have seen a rash of companies, such as PayPal, publicly cancel plans to come to the state over the law that limited protections for LGBT individuals. They have also lamented the unknown number of firms that crossed the state off their list without even telling recruiters here.
The repeal measure “will allow us to put the issue behind us,” said John Lassiter, the chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the public-private group that recruits businesses to the state. “It allows our economic development efforts I think to really pick up some speed.”
Lassiter said a number of companies have been watching to see what the state would do about HB2 before making any moves. He now expects to have several projects to talk about within the next month, although he didn’t provide any names.
Immediately after Gov. Roy Cooper signed the repeal measure, staffers at the economic development arm of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce started phoning site selection consultants whose clients are currently considering whether to move or expand to the area.
“For some of them, HB2 was a concern for their clients,” said Adrienne Cole, president and CEO. “So we wanted them to be sure that they understand that there has been a repeal.”
“We were operating under the cloud of HB2 for a year,” she continued. “It wasn’t an issue for every company we worked with, but it certainly was an issue for many. So to have that hurdle removed is certainly a good thing for economic development in Raleigh and the Triangle and the state.”
Although the replacement law has its critics, Cole said she is optimistic that it will satisfy those companies that were wary of HB2.
“We’re hopeful the merits of our community will win out as they consider whether to create jobs and make investments,” she added.
House Bill 142 repealed HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill” enacted by legislators to nullify a Charlotte ordinance that extended civil rights protections to LGBT people. But the new law includes other provisions, including a prohibition on local governments from regulating public accommodations or private employment practices before Dec. 1, 2020.
That has led some groups to say the repeal measure wasn’t a repeal at all and to continue their call for sports organizations such as the NCAA to boycott the state.
Business groups, however, helped broker the compromise this week and have come out in support.
Bank of America was among those businesses that had urged a repeal of HB2, with CEO Brian Moynihan saying recently that he knew of companies quietly passing over the state because of the law.
“We support this bipartisan measure to repeal HB2 and create the conditions for continued dialogue and progress,” bank spokesman Dan Frahm said.
One of the more high-profile businesses to pull out of the state over was payments processor PayPal, which canceled a 400-employee operations center in Charlotte. At a Charlotte Regional Partnership luncheon on Thursday, N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland said he planned to call PayPal after the repeal’s passage, but acknowledged it “won’t be an instant transformation of image” for the state.
A PayPal spokesman on Friday said he did not have any updates on the company’s plans.
News & Observer reporter David Ranii contributed.
Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170