McCrory’s top N.C. economic development officials at odds about damage from HB2


By Chris Fitzsimon - NC Policy Watch



HB2, North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBT law, is affecting the relocation decisions of as many as one fourth of the companies currently considering moving to North Carolina.

That’s not some wild estimate by the folks opposed to HB2 or an allegation made by political opponents of Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the legislation into law last March and continues to passionately defend it.

Instead that assessment of the damage HB2 is doing to North Carolina’s economic development efforts comes from the state’s point person in recruiting companies to the state, Christopher Chung, the CEO of the Economic Partnership of North Carolina—the nonprofit created by Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to lead the state’s efforts to convince companies to move here.

Chung said in a recent interview with the Triangle Business Journal that HB2 does not come up in conversations with 75-80 percent of the companies his group is pursuing but is a factor for 20-25 percent of the corporations he talks to.

It’s also a negative factor that states competing with North Carolina for jobs don’t have to worry about. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said last spring there was no need for legislation like HB2 in her state and nothing like it has passed there or any other state neighboring North Carolina.

Chung’s troubling remarks about the damage from HB2 came a few days after N.C. Secretary of Commerce John Skvarla said in a Charlotte speech that the anti-LGBT law hadn’t “moved the needle one iota” on North Carolina’s economy.

Skvarla also told the Charlotte Business Journal late last week that HB2 had played no role in talks he has had with any companies considering locating in North Carolina. That directly contradicts what Chung said and he is the state’s point person on economic development.

Skvarla also called the decision by PayPal last spring to cancel a planned operations center in Charlotte that would have created 400 jobs in the area as a “grain of sand on the beach.”

The day after Skvarla offered that silly metaphor, the real estate research firm CoStar Group announced it was choosing Richmond over Charlotte for a 730-job expansion project because of HB2.

The folks in the McCrory Administration simply can’t bring themselves to admit that HB2 is damaging the state’s economy and reputation around the world, not to mention demonizing a group of North Carolinians.

Chung confirmed the economic damage and Skvarla knows it is true, but just can’t allow himself to say it in this highly charged political session and the tension appears to be taking its toll.

Skvarla also told the Charlotte Business Journal, “Damn it, a deal got cut to repeal HB2 if Charlotte would wipe out the ordinance and Charlotte refused to wipe out the ordinance. This thing would have been over and done.”

Skvarla may be testy but he is not telling the truth here either.

After the Charlotte City Council wisely refused to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance that protects LGBT people from discrimination, House Speaker Tim Moore admitted that legislative leaders had not been committed to fully repealing HB2 after a Charlotte City Council vote, only offering that they would take a long look at various aspects of the law.

WFAE radio in Charlotte recently reported that Republicans are now refusing to comment at all on HB2. Saying nothing about the damage the law is doing to the state may be a calculated political move but it’s a disservice to the people of the state.

So are Skvarla’s absurd denials and claims.

Not long after Skvarla made his grain of sand comments, the press office of Gov. Pat McCrory sent out a news release announcing that Pepsi was building a new distribution center and creating 50 jobs in the state over the next five years and proclaiming that the project “will continue to strengthen North Carolina’s position as one of the fastest growing economies in the nation.”

Fifty jobs. PayPal would have brought 400 jobs and CoStar another 732. And then there are the 25 percent of the corporate executives that Christopher Chung talks to that bring up HB2 as a reason not to come here.

It turns out discrimination is not only morally wrong, it is also expensive and devastating to a state’s economy.

Too bad our leaders can’t at least be honest about it.

Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of NC Policy Watch.

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By Chris Fitzsimon

NC Policy Watch

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