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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill and Carrboro continue to feel economic sting from HB2

Protestors gathered at Peace and Justice Plaza Tuesday afternoon to speak out against North Carolina's House Bill 2, which has garnered many negative criticisms.
Protestors gathered at Peace and Justice Plaza Tuesday afternoon to speak out against North Carolina's House Bill 2, which has garnered many negative criticisms.

This number incorporates outside organizations’ continued withdrawal of bookings for conferences, trainings and workshops. In January 2017, the AAU STEM conference, which would have brought an estimated $200,000 to the area, contacted the College of Arts and Sciences to say the event would be moved because of the law, Griffin said.

The total also includes revenue lost due to the travel bans placed on North Carolina by six states and 17 cities.

However, businesses are becoming more aware of the impacts of people and organizations who decide not to consider North Carolina as a destination at all.

“There is a great number, that we will never know, of people who have just written us off,” said Meg McGurk, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

The law caused many businesses and events to leave the state, including ACC and NCAA Tournament games, taking their fans and valuable economic revenue with them.

“North Carolina has been this cool, up-and-coming state for so long,” said Janet Elbetri, owner of Sandwhich. “Suddenly we’re not cool anymore.”

Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill is one business that has noticed this trend.

An author visiting the store last week asked owner Jamie Fiocco to include in her introduction the fact that she seriously considered not coming to North Carolina because of the bill. Fiocco fears that there are other authors and artists out there who underwent the same deliberation, and in the end decided to bypass the state.

“That’s the kind of scary part, to not even have the opportunity to have a dialogue,” she said.

Fiocco didn’t experience any cancellations because of HB2, but it wasn’t easy. She changed some events to be benefits for human rights organizations to encourage authors to keep coming.

“It took a lot of work on my end to convince them not to penalize an independent bookstore speaking out,” she said.

Fiocco and Elbetri both put up signs on their bathrooms to notify customers that they could use the facilities of their choice without facing scrutiny.

“I’ve had a couple of people thank me,” Fiocco said.

Elbetri said making a statement could have alienated certain customers, but neither business owner received negative comments about their bathrooms.

Following the bill’s passage, the visitors bureau launched an advertising campaign, called Your Community is Part of Ours, to reach out to members of the national LGBTQ community. The Downtown Partnership put up pride flags after the bill passed in March 2016 and again for a week in June.

“As a community we are open and welcome to everyone,” Griffin said.

Elbetri saw these new efforts towards the community as a silver lining to the bill.

“This year I made a point of being inclusive,” she said. “I wouldn’t have previously thought about reaching out and being extra welcoming.”


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