Yesterday, TurnOUT! North Carolina (NC) and the Small Business Majority continued our multiple city tour of North Carolina featuring Small Business leaders detailing the real economic harm they are experiencing as a result of HB2. Starting on Wednesday in Raleigh, traveling yesterday to Charlotte, and heading to Greensboro next week, our “Small Businesses for the Repeal of HB2” tour is highlighting HB2’s direct impact on small businesses, small business owners, their families and employees.
Recent statements by Lt. Governor Dan Forest scoff at the impact that HB2 is having on the state’s economy implying that the bill has not done real harm to business in the state. Despite reports from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce that Mecklenburg County could lose as many as 1,300 jobs and is suffering a loss of $285 million as a result of HB2, elected officials in Raleigh are clearly not paying attention to the reality they created.
Kevin Giriunas, owner of Advent Coworking and member of the Small Business Majority, hosted yesterday’s press conference at his coworking and event space. He is disappointed in the passage of HB2 and fears that this discriminatory law will discourage growth in the use of his space which caters the small business owners, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals.
Russell Ferguson with the Plaza Midwood Merchant Association has benefited from the growth of Charlotte and the influx of visitors, but is seeing business being driven away because of HB2. Joining Russell was Lesa Kastanas the owner of CLTCH, a boutique retail space in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood where they “open our doors to everyone, everyone!”
“It’s clear that HB2 was a bad decision. It’s hurt businesses from the smallest, like ours, to the largest,” Kastanas said. “It’s created a toxic, hateful, and suspicious environment in a state that considers itself the progressive new south. This decision has come with a pricetag.”
Debra Bost, whose family owns Southland Parking in downtown Charlotte, spoke about the negative impact that the fallout from HB2 has had on their business. The company relies on daily and nightly parking by tourists and visitors who come to Charlotte for conventions, sporting events and concerts. With more and more events being canceled in Charlotte, like Maroon 5 and Bruce Springsteen concerts, along with at least 13 conventions and events that have been relocated, they are losing thousands of dollars of monthly income. Bost is also concerned that sporting events, like the NBA All-Star game, will pulled from Charlotte because of HB2.
James Funderburk talked about how HB2 is making it harder to attract and retain the right kinds of talent to Charlotte. His business, The Home Collection, provides furnished corporate apartments for rent.
“The Home Collection is run by a transgender man who is absolutely the most dynamic, talented person my business has ever hired,” he said. “And we are really doing great things with him on board. I want this state to be a safe place where he will stay with my company for years but I frankly wouldn’t blame him if he had to leave and go some place more welcoming.”
In closing, James stated what all the other speakers firmly believe: “It’s time for our legislature and our governor to repeal HB2.”
This is why TurnOUT! NC, which is a coalition of HRC, Equality North Carolina, the ACLU and the Campaign for Southern Equality, is working to mobilize thousands of North Carolinians for the full repeal of HB2. TurnOUT! NC has field organizers based in Asheville, Charlotte and the Triangle area. Additionally, HRC staff is on the ground working with coalition partners across the Tar Heel State. There are daily opportunities to volunteer with weekly phone banks and weekend canvassing opportunities.
If you live in North Carolina and want to join the efforts to repeal HB2, RSVP for upcoming phone banks and volunteer opportunities. For more information about our work in North Carolina, contact HRC Associate Regional Field Director Ryan Rowe at Ryan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Funderburk, Owner of The Home Collection
Kevin Giriunas, Owner of Advent Coworking
Lesa Kastanas, Owner of CLTCH
Matt Hirschy from Equality NC
Russell Fergusson with Plaza Midwood Merchant Association
Matt Hirschy from Equality NC and Ryan Wilson from HRC with local advocate Veleria Levy