Chamber CEO: Little “appetite for compromise” on HB2

Bob Morgan was hopeful state legislators would reach a compromise of some sort on House Bill 2, the state’s controversial new law limiting protections for LGBT individuals.

But, the Charlotte Chamber CEO said Wednesday, the issue was simply too heated.

“I just can’t overemphasize to you the level of heat, the level of political intensity from the left and the right,” said Morgan, speaking at a CoreNet Global Carolinas real estate forum. “Both sides believe they have a winning issue. Both sides believe they’ve done what their base wants them to do. The appetite for compromise is small.”

The N.C. General Assembly adjourned from its short session without making significant changes to the law, which requires people in public schools and government facilities to use restrooms that conform to the gender on their birth certificates. The law also sets statewide categories of people legally protected from discrimination that don’t include LGBT individuals.

The legislature passed was in reaction to a Charlotte ordinance that would allow transgender individuals to choose a restroom based on their current gender identity.

Now, Morgan said, much of the focus is on whether the NBA will move its 2017 All-Star Game that’s scheduled for February from Charlotte. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league needs to make a decision by the end of the summer on an event that’s expected to be a major draw for tourists, on par with the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“All eyes are on the NBA,” said Morgan. “We don’t have a definitive answer one way or another.”

So far this year, Morgan said the Charlotte Chamber has tracked a similar number of new jobs announced in Charlotte as last year: About 3,300. He said it remains to be seen whether HB2 will dampen enthusiasm for companies considering Charlotte for a relocation.

“I think we would all agree that a problem was created, a problem in perception of Charlotte’s and North Carolina’s openness,” said Morgan. To protest HB2, PayPal in April pulled out of a highly publicized expansion planned in Charlotte that would have brought 400 jobs.

Although Morgan said the city is having a “decent” year for job growth, he predicted the increase will be lower than it would have been without HB2.

“We probably are missing the opportunity to have a stellar year, had it not been for all of the noise that’s been generated around HB2,” he said.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo