PayPal nixes planned Charlotte expansion over HB2

PayPal nixes planned Charlotte expansion over HB2

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A major company has announced it will no longer be expanding to Charlotte after lawmakers in North Carolina passed House Bill 2, repealing Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman posted a message on PayPal's website Tuesday morning, just two weeks after the company announced plans to expand to North Carolina, bringing 400 jobs to Charlotte and investing $3.6 million by the end of 2017.

"In the short time since then, legislation has been abruptly enacted by the State of North Carolina that invalidates protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and denies these members of our community equal rights under the law," Schulman wrote. "The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal's mission and culture.  As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte."

Paypal is a worldwide online payment system used for purchases on sites such as eBay.

The center was expected to yield a payroll impact of nearly $20.4 million to Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. The center was going to be located off Interstate 85 just north of W. T. Harris.

"This decision reflects PayPal's deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect," Schulman continued. "These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination."

Our decision is a clear and unambiguous one. But we do regret that we will not have the opportunity to be a part of the Charlotte community and to count as colleagues the skilled and talented people of the region. As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.  - PayPal CEO Dan Schulman

Schulman was among the dozens of chief executives from big technology, biotech and financial companies who sent a letter to North Carolina officials last week, urging leaders to repeal House Bill 2.

"That was 400 jobs we were planning for Charlotte to gain and this has real impact on Charlotte families and North Carolina families," said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

And PayPal is not the only company rethinking setting up shop in North Carolina.

Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias also sent out a statement today - saying he is reconsidering his initial plans of adding 500 more jobs in Charlotte this year because of House Bill 2.

The law requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their birth certificates. The law also makes clear local measures can't expand anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance, which was repealed with HB2, broadly defined how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers, but as in other cities recently, the debate has focused on bathrooms. The measure was slated to take effect on April 1.

"Economic repercussions are threatened and real," the Charlotte Chamber said in a statement Tuesday. "As evidenced by today's announcement by PayPal to withdrawal plans to expand in Charlotte, we encourage all our leaders at the city and state levels to contribute toward a solution that is in the best interest of our city and state."

Roberts says the legislature needs to find a way to meet in the middle.

"I am just urging our legislature to find some kind of legislative remedy as soon as possible," Roberts said.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who is running for North Carolina Governor and has publicly called House Bill 2 'unconstitutional' and said he won't defend it in court, talked about the PayPal pullout Tuesday.

"The threat that HB 2 poses to jobs and our economy is no longer a possibility, it's a reality. Everyday working families are suffering from this law," Cooper said. "These are new, better paying jobs North Carolina won't get because Governor McCrory has put his political ideology above all else. It's time to reverse course and take actions to undo the damage."

During a press conference in Jamestown to reveal his new budget proposal, McCrory said he "respects disagreement" in response to PayPal's announcement.  He answered two questions about House Bill 2 before saying "people are more interested" in talking about education than bathrooms.

In that same press conference, he said despite Schulman's stance against House Bill 2, he is sure PayPal will still accept money from North Carolina residents.

"I anticipate PayPal will still provide their services and accept our consumer money in the state of North Carolina, as they also accept consumer money in nations throughout the world that frankly have disagreements with some of the policies that they're disagreeing with in North Carolina," McCrory said.

Later, McCrory's campaign for re-election sent out a quote from campaign manager Russell Peck.

"Attorney General Cooper continues to side with out-of-state and Washington, D.C. special interests over what's best for North Carolina and its families. Not only has Roy Cooper decided not do the job he is paid over $120,000 to do, his out-of-state campaign backers like the Human Rights Campaign are actively recruiting companies to protest North Carolina and inflict economic damage so they can take advantage of the situation to continue to falsely attack Governor McCrory," Peck said. "North Carolina deserves better than these destructive campaign tactics."

Last Thursday, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin and Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro delivered the letter to Governor Pat McCrory's office. Griffin and Sgro say the new law will have on LGBT North Carolinians.

"We will stand firm in our commitment to equality and inclusion and our conviction that we can make a difference by living and acting on our values," Schulman said. "It's the right thing to do for our employees, our customers, and our communities."

PayPal also released a statement, saying it would consider moving forward with plans to expand to Charlotte if House Bill 2 is repealed.

"Right now we are focused on seeking a new location for our global operations center. Should North Carolina repeal HB2, PayPal may reconsider its options. PayPal will continue to support the LGBT community in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina."

If the fight over House Bill 2 is not resolved quickly, another state could swoop in and take those PayPal jobs.

Shortly after PayPal's announcement, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin invited the company to expand into his state instead.

Roberts says if House Bill 2 is not repealed, she's worried more businesses will follow the lead of PayPal.

"We really want to make sure we don't have any more announcements like we did today with PayPal."

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