St. Petersburg mayor: After HB2, send us your jobs, North Carolina

Read the full article on the Charlotte Observer’s website.


As Georgia veers to avert the disaster North Carolina has inflicted upon its economy, there has never been a better time for Florida, and especially St. Petersburg, to send the message that we are welcoming, inclusive and open for business.

Today, North Carolina stands as the state with the dubious distinction of having the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the country. I hope they reverse direction for the good of the people who live and travel there. I know it does not reflect the character of the many people I know from North Carolina.

As mayor of St. Petersburg, I am sending the message to businesses looking to relocate that our community respects and protects the dignity and basic rights of all who live, work and play in our city. In fact, we have consistently received the top ranking in the Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of municipal laws and policies.

In St. Petersburg, our Chamber of Commerce is a proud member of Florida Business for A Competitive Workforce, a coalition made up of Florida’s top employers pushing to ensure those protections exist all across our great state. The Florida Competitive Workforce act enjoys bipartisan support and the vast majority of Floridians believe nondiscrimination should be the law statewide. I supported that bill as a legislator and as mayor have ensured those protections are strong in our city.

Having witnessed the damage to the reputation and economy of other states, it is surprising to see legislatures self-inflict these injuries. Arizona’s governor vetoed similar legislation in 2014 amidst public outcry and the potential loss of major employers, sporting events and tourism dollars. Indiana held a special session to try and undo the damage of its discriminatory legislation in 2015. A study by Visit Indy found that the state lost more than $60 million in revenue because of its bill that legalized discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters.

It is bad enough that these bills harm LGBT people, but they are written in such a way that undermines basic protections for all. A legal analysis of the hastily crafted law reveals that the law may remove the state right to sue for discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or disability.

That is not the recipe for recruiting and retaining talent. That is not the message that inspires innovation. St. Petersburg, where the sun shines on all, is open for business and eager to provide a new home where hard work, not prejudice and discrimination, determine how high you can climb.