Companies still want to come to NC, Gov. McCrory says

Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina board meeting.
Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina board meeting.

Gov. Pat McCrory pushed back Friday against reports that the controversy over House Bill 2 is hurting North Carolina’s ability to lure companies, and he blamed the media for negative publicity around the issue.

“That perception may start with the people writing the articles,” McCrory said after an impromptu visit to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s board meeting in uptown Charlotte. The group, primarily funded by the state but receiving private funds from local businesses as well, is responsible for marketing North Carolina and luring prospective companies.

The Charlotte Chamber said last month that since the legislature passed HB2 in March, inquiries from new businesses interested in moving to Charlotte are down 58 percent from last year, and client visits were down 69 percent. Charlotte developers also said this week that they’re worried it will be tough to find companies from outside Charlotte to fill the 1.5 million square feet of new, mostly speculative office space that’s under construction.

“That’s after these articles,” said McCrory. He said the national controversy over LGBT laws and transgender protections needs to be sorted out by the courts and Congress.

“These issues are no longer North Carolina issues, this is a national issue,” McCrory said.

HB2 nullified a Charlotte ordinance that would have expanded nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals and allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. So far, the state legislature and Charlotte City Council have shown no signs of moving toward a compromise on the issue, which has drawn national attention.

PayPal canceled a 400-job office planned for Charlotte soon after the bill was passed, and numerous artists, including Bruce Springsteen and Demi Lovato, have canceled shows in the state.

Without going into detail, McCrory said there are still plenty of companies interested in coming to Charlotte.

“Our pipeline is still full,” said McCrory. “We’re getting a lot of inquiries statewide, and we hope to have some good news to report in the near future.”

He pointed to the building boom in Charlotte as evidence of the state’s continued economic strength. “There are a lot of cranes here,” said McCrory. “The cranes are back.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo