Op-Ed

Laws should help NC businesses – on that, HB2 an utter failure

HB2: A timeline for North Carolina’s controversial law

North Carolina’s legislature passed a law that prevents transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The law — House Bill 2 (HB2) — has incited a state-wide civil liberties battle. Here is the timel
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North Carolina’s legislature passed a law that prevents transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The law — House Bill 2 (HB2) — has incited a state-wide civil liberties battle. Here is the timel

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory reignited the controversy over the drafting of the calamitous HB2 legislation, this time by blaming the North Carolina Chamber. Regardless of who had a hand in writing the bill, state lawmakers voted on it and the governor signed it. It’s their mess, it has their name on it and it’s their responsibility to clean it up

Instead of trying to shift the blame onto the business community, McCrory should actually listen to them. While the N.C. Chamber has been quiet on HB2, rarely has there been a more clear and unambiguous threat to North Carolina’s economy, and the business community spoke up loud and clear.

More than 180 business executives from some of the nation’s most successful companies, including Bank of America, IBM, Apple and Google, have called for a repeal. And a new homegrown coalition of North Carolina businesses, the North Carolina Business Council, has grown up quickly in the wake of HB2.

The North Carolina Business Council believes it is the business community’s responsibility to speak up and push our elected leaders to advance legislation that makes North Carolina a better place to live, work and create jobs. On that criteria, HB2 is an utter failure.

With HB2 on the books, discrimination against gays and lesbians is now legal in North Carolina. A state that sanctions discrimination will never be a world leader; instead, we’ll have to play second fiddle to other groups.

Every day HB2 remains on the books, North Carolina’s reputation erodes and the economic news keeps getting worse. The fallout is more than bluster.

First, PayPal decided to withdraw its 400-job expansion plans, then Deutsche Bank and Lionsgate. Then concerts and conventions started to leave. The Charlotte Chamber estimates more than 1,000 jobs lost and $285 million in economic damage.

The damage is real.

My company, Cortech Solutions in Wilmington, sells advanced equipment and software for brain research. At a recent commercial exhibition in Chicago, a customer from Harvard Medical School approached me specifically to talk about HB2. He recalled fondly visiting Wilmington but commented that he “had not realized how backward the area was” during his short visit.

I was stunned to learn that one of our customers sees HB2 as a reflection of the values of our business. After investing thousands of dollars to recruit business at a conference, I was hugely disappointed to have to defend myself and my company over something like this.

Rule No. 1 in sales is to never give customers a reason to shop elsewhere. I worry HB2 might lead my customers to vote with their pocketbooks and choose another vendor in another state.

That customer in Chicago asked me, point blank, what I was doing to effect change. I told him that I planned to do everything possible, and that’s why I’m so interested in advocacy from business leaders.

Since the passing of HB2, we’ve seen a spike in interest in the North Carolina Business Council. It’s time for a sustained voice for business in North Carolina that advocates business issues beyond just tax cuts. HB2, for one, is bad for my business and bad for North Carolina.

Lloyd Smith is president of Cortech Solutions in Wilmington and a board member of the N.C. Business Council.

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