While he was in Charlotte Monday at Charter Communications’ training center, state Secretary of Commerce John Skvarla should have gotten the company to check his connections — to reality.
In one of the most preposterous, downright fanciful presentations of this election season — and make no mistake, it was all about the election — Skvarla said of the storm over HB2, “It hasn’t moved the needle one iota” in terms of hurting the state’s economy.
HB2 is the foolish law passed in haste by Republicans in the General Assembly, and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, that in effect excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from anti-discrimination protections and prohibits local governments from passing such protections on their own. It was done in petulant response to a Charlotte City Council action allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of the gender with which they identify — something they have been doing for generations.
HB2 has had serious consequences that thus far have cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. And the losses of jobs and economic impact from huge events will continue until it is repealed.
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Skvarla pooh-poohed one notable loss, the decision of PayPal to reverse a decision last spring to open an operations center in Charlotte that would have brought 400 jobs. After HB2, the company reversed course.
Skvarla said Monday that such things haven’t hurt the state’s economy. “PayPay wasn’t even a grain of sand on the beach,” he said. “Much too much is being made of PayPal.”
Skvarla said the state has hundreds of prospects in the pipeline, but he didn’t name any. And he didn’t know when he made the comment that the CoStar Group, a real estate research firm, picked Richmond over Charlotte for a research operations center, the choice having been influenced by HB2. The center would have brought 730 jobs.
Other HB2 casualties: the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte, NCAA playoff games, ACC championships, academic and business conferences, arts events including concerts by major artists. Less tangible but no less real is the damage to the state’s reputation as a progressive voice in the South.
Unfortunately for the governor, business leaders aren’t buying what he’s sent Skvarla out to sell. Many have been saying for months that HB2 is a disaster. Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield said his organization has been “hit hard” by HB2. Johnny Harris, for decades a major developer in Charlotte, said earlier this year, “I’ve been saying to anyone that would listen to me from the very first day that it’s a train wreck.” Some states have even banned official travel to North Carolina. Stories are common that conferences that might have been held in North Carolina are quietly going elsewhere.
HB2 isn’t just some political gaffe on the part of Republicans who apparently could care less what it’s done to the state’s reputation. It is a certifiable disaster and the consequences from it are only going to get worse.