Under former Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s economic development office has used a slogan: “Texas: Wide Open for Business.”
Texas has enjoyed more than a decade of being named Numero Uno for business by ranking entities such as Chief Executive, Site Selection and Forbes magazines.
Companies have moved here from California, Illinois and other states with heavy tax burdens and onerous government regulations to enjoy our affordable, business-friendly environment.
In spite of this success, some elected leaders would slam that wide-open business door in the face of new companies by adopting a state mandate based on hyperbole and fear, not facts.
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Texas cannot afford such legislation. We only have to look at the debacle in North Carolina to see evidence of this.
North Carolina’s 2016 bathroom bill overrode local anti-discrimination protections and resulted in boycotts of national tournaments, conferences and corporate relocations. It was repealed after a deluge of national negative publicity and statewide reputation damage.
This past week, the Metro 8 Chambers of Commerce, composed of the Arlington, Austin, United Corpus Christi, Dallas Regional, Greater El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston chambers, sent a letter to our state legislators pleading with them to recognize that Texas is best served by policies that portray our state as a welcoming, open place to live and do business.
The Perryman Group, a well-known, respected economic research and analysis firm, recently published a report concluding that passage of bathroom legislation would cost Texas almost $3.3 billion per year, with a high probability of costs increasing even further in future years.
Workforce talent recruitment will also be limited by any bathroom restrictions.
In terms of corporate expansions and relocations, Texas cities could be crossed off the list of contenders, especially for high-wage, global tech companies and professional services that rely on the creative class.
Furthermore, this matter is not one that state government should legislate but should be the purview of city councils, county commissioners and school boards elected to address local issues.
This legislation, and the danger of shutting down state agencies and calling special sessions until it is passed, is an economic and brand killer for Texas that could costs billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, increase costs to taxpayers and not provide any more privacy or safety for anyone than we already have through existing criminal laws.
We, the Metro 8, call on the Texas Legislature in the name of 20,000 Texas companies, 19.4 million urban residents and $1.2 trillion in GDP that we represent to reject this unnecessary, unfunded, unenforceable mandate.
If not, Texas may have to get a new slogan.
Bob Harvey is president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership and 2017 chairman of the Metro 8 Chambers of Commerce. Joint authors are the presidents of the other Metro 8 chambers.