Cancellations over HB2 make headlines but barely dent NC economy

Posted September 21, 2016 4:21 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2016 7:05 p.m. EDT

House Bill 2 (HB2)

— Despite big numbers that total up to more than half a billion dollars, the numerous sporting events, concerts, conventions and business expansions that North Carolina has lost in recent months because of a state law limiting LGBT rights have created only a tiny ripple on the state economy, according to a rough analysis by WRAL News.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce estimated in May that the city had lost $285 million, including a 400-job expansion by PayPal, because of House Bill 2, which prohibits anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender individuals and requires transgender people to use the bathrooms in schools and other public buildings that correspond to their birth gender.

Meanwhile, Raleigh has lost $5.6 million in direct costs from 18 canceled conventions, and Greensboro has lost $6 million from six conferences that moved elsewhere, according to the convention and visitors bureaus in the two cities. Neither total includes sporting events.

Cary also lost out on a planned 250-job expansion from Deutsche Bank, totaling $27 million in payroll and construction. And Asheville estimates it's lost close to $2 million in cancellations.

The NBA's decision in July to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans cost the Queen City an estimated $90 million, and the recent decisions of the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference to strip North Carolina of about a dozen collegiate sports championships over the next year is expected to cost another $90 million.

Together, those canceled events top $505 million, and the figures don't even account for the economic activity lost from concerts and other performances, such as Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil, that have been canceled because of House Bill 2.

While half a billion dollars is a significant figure that's harmed businesses directly affected by cancelations, it's a tiny fraction of the state's overall economy. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, North Carolina’s gross state domestic product for 2015 was $510 billion. So, even at $500 million, House Bill 2's impact on the state economy has been about 0.1 percent.

WRAL News's analysis used conservative estimates. It does not include losses for which no economic impact data was available, such as the reported cancelation of 1,000-job expansion in Raleigh by an unidentified technology company. It also doesn't account for businesses that may have bypassed North Carolina because of the controversial law without announcing it publicly, or for other damage to the state's global brand.