Business

Charlotte business leader optimistic HB2 repeal will lead to more expansions, relocations

Charlotte business leader Ned Curran hopes he doesn’t have to drive back to Raleigh anytime soon.

Curran, longtime head of Ballantyne developer Bissell, was one of a group of businesspeople who worked behind the scenes to coordinate the legislative effort that led to the repeal of House Bill 2 on Thursday. He spent this week there, promoting the deal as negotiations went up to the last minute and the outcome wasn’t certain until the votes were cast.

“I like the capital city,” Curran clarified, driving back to Charlotte late Thursday. But after other compromise deals sputtered and fell apart, Currant said he wasn’t optimistic his work there would lead to a solution.

“We’d been involved in too many of these efforts to get optimistic anymore,” said Curran, also past chairman of the N.C. Department of Transportation. He declined to say exactly how he got involved in the legislative wrangling, but said the effort has been going on for weeks.

“A small group of businesspeople were asked to participate,” said Curran. He’s optimistic that the repeal will lead to more companies expanding or relocating to North Carolina.

“We were aware that there were economic opportunities the state has that will be much more likely to choose North Carolina,” said Curran. He knows that the deal has opponents on the left and right, but said it was the state’s “last, best” option to get HB2 off the books.

Throughout the day on Thursday, companies across the state had worked to apply pressure on North Carolina lawmakers to repeal the bill as the state faced a deadline that could determine whether it lost more college sporting events.

The NCAA had said the state could lose championship events through 2022 if legislators didn’t address HB2 by midday Thursday. As of Thursday evening, the NCAA had not commented on the bill, which was signed into law by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper.

The Charlotte Chamber, Greensboro Chamber, the Greater Raleigh Chamber and North Carolina Chamber all lauded lawmakers’ efforts to find a bipartisan solution for HB2, and encouraged lawmakers to support House Bill 142, the repeal compromise bill.

Corporations were vocal about their distaste for House Bill 2 in the weeks and months after it was signed into law, with companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank going to far as to scrap expansion because of HB2, which has been widely seen as anti-LGBT.

On Thursday, many companies turned to their social media platforms to once again voice their opposition to HB2, which limits legal protections for LGBT individuals.

Credit Suisse, a major Triangle employer whose assessment of the state’s business climate could impact its ongoing reevaluation of its worldwide office sites worldwide, took an upbeat view of the efforts that ultimately led to the compromise bill that replaced the controversial House Bill 2.

“We are pleased with the progress being made on this issue and we are continuing to watch developments closely,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Karina Byrne wrote in an email Thursday afternoon, before Gov. Roy Cooper announced he had signed the bill.

A Credit Suisse spokeswoman said earlier this month that the Swiss financial services company was “in the midst of a firm-wide global reevaluation of our real estate properties,” including the company’s RTP campus as well as offices in New York and Princeton, N.J. Credit Suisse has 1,700 employees in RTP.

Gov. Roy Cooper told CBS North Carolina earlier this month that a financial firm, which he didn’t identify, was interested in bringing 1,500 jobs with starting annual salaries of $100,000 to North Carolina, but that the company was concerned about the impact of House Bill 2.

Not every company, however, backed the bill. McKinney, a Durham-based advertising agency with an office in New York, said it opposed the proposal.

“As a national agency with a global creative reputation, McKinney’s success depends upon attracting the very best talent and clients to Durham. This new bill continues to stand in the way of that and its impact extends to our office in New York. We stand against discrimination in North Carolina,” CEO Brad Brinegar said in a statement.

The Raleigh News & Observer contributed.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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