Future economic development in York, Chester and Lancaster counties could be affected if companies cross Charlotte off their lists of possible expansion sites in the wake of a new North Carolina law that limits legal protections for LGBT individuals, South Carolina economic development officials say.
Efforts in York, Chester and Lancaster counties could be affected if the companies avoid the Charlotte region in its entirety, not considering what’s different in South Carolina.
On Tuesday, PayPal announced it is scrapping plans for a Charlotte facility that would have employed 400 people because the state legislature overturned a Charlotte City Council nondiscrimination ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify. That decision could have a small impact on York County where those employees might have located.
Companies and governments across the country have opposed North Carolina’s action. Major companies with a Charlotte presence, such as Bank of America and American Airlines, have expressed concerns over the law.
Ric Elias, CEO of the Indian Land-based Internet marketing firm Red Ventures, sent a letter to N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory saying he will be “forced to seriously reconsider adding more jobs in a state that tolerates discrimination and allows political interests to interfere with doing what is right for all citizens.”
Red Ventures employs about 500 people in Charlotte and more than 2,500 at its Indian Land headquarters. A Red Ventures spokeswoman said no decision has been made about the employees in Charlotte as the company waits to see if the controversial law is changed.
South Carolina economic developers said it is too early to know what the full impact will be if the North Carolina law is not changed. York, Chester and Lancaster counties are part of the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area, a federal designation for the region and one frequently used in economic development recruiting. The Charlotte MSA has seven counties in North Carolina and three in South Carolina.
Regional S.C. economic developers said it is possible that companies will only see Charlotte and not the entire region when making location decisions. The Charlotte Regional Partnership is a nonprofit, public/private economic development organization that leverages regional resources to market the 16-county Charlotte region. The partnership generates prospects that are pursued by economic developers in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
The partnership has come out against the new law, saying, “the discriminatory legislation lawmakers passed is contrary to our community’s inclusive and welcoming spirit. The bill hurts both Charlotte USA businesses and families.”
South Carolina economic developers also stressed there are multiple aspects companies evaluate when they choose to relocate or expand.
“Hopefully this would be a factor, but not the only factor in making a decision,” said Rich Fletcher, president and CEO of the I-77 Alliance, which markets counties along the interstate between Charlotte and Columbia. The I-77 corridor’s proximity to Charlotte and its assets, such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport, are a key component in the alliance’s marketing strategy.
“The suggestion that businesses are not looking at Charlotte could impact us,” said Stephen Turner, economic development director for Rock Hill. “Many of our major prospects come through Charlotte.”
David Swenson, economic development director for York County, said it is possible the region could see an increase in interest. “We need to maximize what we can offer,” he said.
Businesses considering the Charlotte regional market have both North Carolina and South Carolina to consider, Swenson said, and they “have the freedom to choose an environment that might be better for them.”
What did the N.C. legislature adopt?
North Carolina’s new law, signed March 23 by Gov. Pat McCrory, limits legal protections of LGBT individuals by setting a statewide definition of protected classes of citizens. The new law means schools and local governments cannot adopt more inclusive rules. Legislative leaders said they were responding to the Charlotte ordinance, which would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify.