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Hornets President Fred Whitfield named Economic Growth Champion for HB2 efforts

Fred Whitfield, president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Hornets, in a May photo taken at Latta Park in Dilworth. Whitfield has been named the Economic Growth Champion of the Year by the Charlotte Chamber for his work in brokering a deal to repeal House Bill 2.
Fred Whitfield, president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Hornets, in a May photo taken at Latta Park in Dilworth. Whitfield has been named the Economic Growth Champion of the Year by the Charlotte Chamber for his work in brokering a deal to repeal House Bill 2. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield has been named the Economic Growth Champion of the Year by the Charlotte Chamber for his work in brokering a deal to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial LGBT law that drove dozens of events and businesses out of North Carolina.

Whitfield was recognized Monday evening during a celebration at the Mint Museum Uptown. The Carolina Panthers received the award in 2016, its inaugural year, for the team’s economic impact on the region.

The chamber’s economic growth awards recognize “individuals and organizations that have played a significant role in the economic growth of the Charlotte region,” the chamber says.

Whitfield spent over a year traveling to Raleigh to work with lawmakers on an HB2 deal. Along with other events, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game was pulled from North Carolina over the league’s opposition to the measure, which was signed into law in March 2016 and limited legal protections for the LGBT community.

Also at stake, Whitfield had said, were other major sporting events, the Hornets’ responsibility for bringing other non-basketball business to the Spectrum Center, and Charlotte’s reputation overall.

The efforts of Whitfield and other local business leaders paid off: Gov. Roy Cooper in March signed a compromise bill that repealed HB2. The NBA in May officially awarded Charlotte the 2019 All-Star Game, an event that leaders say will put Charlotte on the global stage and have an estimated total economic impact of $100 million.

“In 2017, Fred Whitfield emerged as that individual when he stepped up to – personally – play a role in resolving one of the most difficult issues the community has ever faced – House Bill 2,” the chamber said on its website.

The chamber’s other awards include: Albemarle Corporation (New Corporate Citizen of the Year), Lending Tree (Entrepreneurial Champion of the Year), Burkert Fluid Control Systems (International Corporate Citizen of the Year), Rep. Jason Saine (Regional Legislator of the Year) and Carolinas HealthCare System (Talent Champion of the Year.)

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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