A half-dozen small business owners in Charlotte called on state legislators to repeal House Bill 2 Thursday at Advent Coworking.
Debra Bost, co-owner of Southland Parking, said her business is suffering because of HB2, the state’s controversial new LGBT law.
“If concerts continue to be canceled, and sporting events move away,” she said, “we can’t rely on a steady amount of business to provide income for our family and cover taxes and maintenance.”
Southland Parking, next to Time Warner Cable arena, has 98 spaces and depends on local events to fill the lot. She said she is not yet in danger of losing the space, “but we’re getting nervous.”
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Thursday’s news conference was organized in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign, which has been a vocal opponent of HB2 since the law was passed in response to a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that would have broadened protections for LGBT individuals and allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.
A spokesman for the governor, Ricky Diaz, said the Charlotte ordinance, which HB2 overturned, was an overreach by local government.
“Most businesses do not want the government to mandate their bathroom policies,” he said. “It’s not the role of government to be the bathroom police to the private sector.”
Some small business owners said they are being forced to look outside Charlotte. James Funderburk, real estate developer and owner of The Home Collection, said he might go elsewhere to build his next community. He estimated that will be a $7 million project.
“We are now very seriously having a hard time finding the confidence to make that investment in North Carolina,” he said. “So we’re being forced to consider maybe investing outside of the state for the first time in my business life.”
He said the damage is not just the loss of new business in the city, but also the small businesses that are choosing not to locate or expand here.
“How many other $7 million developments aren’t happening just like mine?”
Russell Fergusson, a business attorney, said HB2 is driving away business and tourism, and casting the state in a negative light nationally.
“It’s embarrassing to be a North Carolinian,” he said. “We ask the state legislature to be honest with themselves and acknowledge their mistake and repeal this poorly written bill.”
Rachel Stone: 704-358-5334, @RStone1317