With some companies threatening to not do business in North Carolina because of House Bill 2, Attorney General Roy Cooper delivered a message to the tech industry Wednesday: become involved in state government.
“You need a state government that understands,” said Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor. “You need to be involved in the process of policymaking and elections. It matters who you elect, and we’re seeing a lot of consequences right now.”
Cooper spoke during an event at American Underground sponsored by ExitEvent, an organization affiliated with television station WRAL that covers startup news, technology, business and entrepreneurship.
Among the concerns addressed to Cooper from business leaders were the need for skilled workers and the effects of HB2, which blocks local anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching their birth certificates.
“We need to make sure that we are not creating obstacles for ourselves,” Cooper said. “In the context of House Bill 2, we’ve got to repeal it … We need to make people understand that we are a welcoming state and that we don’t want this.”
Despite the negative impacts the law is having on business, Cooper said, the biggest concern CEOs voice to him is recruiting a strong talent pool.
Matthew Kane, CEO of Precision BioSciences, said his business competes with other biotech companies around the country to recruit a skilled workforce. He asked Cooper to explain what he would do to make North Carolina more attractive to potential employees.
Cooper said he would invest in public transit and public education and increase access to targeted loans for employers.
“We have to invest in our community colleges and our great universities, which I believe will be our economic engines,” Cooper said.
Cooper wants business innovators to offer solutions to problems within state government.
“People who are involved in entrepreneurship really need to get involved in the governmental process,” he said. “It may be distasteful. I’ve heard many people say ‘I’m not political, (so) I’m going to let that go.’ It matters to you and your business.”
Laura Baverman, editor of ExitEvent, said she is working with the campaigns of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican Sen. Richard Burr to coordinate talks similar to Cooper’s. Baverman said Deborah Ross, Burr’s Democratic challenger, has confirmed she will participate in a talk in early July.