South Carolina’s Manufacturers Wait and Watch on Bathroom Bill

Across the state, manufacturing companies are quiet as to what kind of an impact a proposed “bathroom bill” could have in South Carolina.

With eyes toward what happens to North Carolina’s recently passed legislation that limits which bathroom one can use to one’s birth gender, manufacturers here had little or no comment on similar legislation proposed in the SC Senate this month.

But some parallels can be drawn from the actions of companies here and there.

In March, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bathroom legislation. Almost immediately, the backlash began. More than 120 companies, including Apple, Hyatt, Hewlett Packard, Northrop Grumman, Toyota and others signed a letter asking the Governor to repeal the law. And PayPal announced it would cancel its plans to build a new global operations center in Charlotte, because of the law.

Similarly, performers Bruce Springsteen, Boston and Pearl Jam have cancelled concerts there in protest, while several cities – including Atlanta, Seattle, New York City among others – and some states have opted to restrict any non-essential public employee travel to the Tarheel State.

According to the Center for American Progress, North Carolina stands to lose an estimated $568 million in private-sector economic activity through 2018. According to the report, the state has already lost out on $86 million and stands to lose upwards of an additional $481 million due to cancelled events, businesses leaving the area, and tourism declines if the bill is not repealed

In April, Sen. Lee Bright, R-Greenville and Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, introduced a similar bill to the South Carolina legislature mimicking North Carolina’s embattled bill.

While the bill idles in the South Carolina legislature for now, many manufacturers in the state chose not to discuss it.

But if some companies react to the South Carolina bill the same way they react to the North Carolina bill, the consequences could be significant.

In a letter to North Carolina’s McCrory, Ric Elias, CEO of Red Ventures, a marketing firm based in Charlotte, said his company would have to “seriously reconsider” its plan to add 500 jobs to its Charlotte base this year and thousands more in the coming years.

In November 2015, Red Ventures broke ground on a $90 million project in Indian Land, SC – an unincorporated community in the northwest corner of Lancaster County. When completed the 300,000 square foot structure will have capacity for 1,500 new employees and the facility will hold a sales center, a 6-story office tower, a learning and development center and two parking structures.

Katie Zach, director of public relations for the company, said she had no information about how the bill would impact that expansion, or what the status of any further future expansion plans were at this time.

Earlier in April, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said the bill was unnecessary, and that her office had received no complaints about the proposed bill.

But business leaders across the state have also decried the bill. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President Ted Pitts criticized the bill as an attempt by Bright to “save his political career.”

Manufacturers were quiet.

When asked for comment, representatives for Lockheed Martin, Autoneum, Boeing, and others declined to comment. Others, like Volvo, already in the midst of building a new $500 million manufacturing plant in Berkley County, did not return repeated calls and emails.

When asked if the state had received any pushback from manufacturer’s doing business in South Carolina, or with expansion plans in South Carolina, Alex Clark, with the South Carolina Department of Commerce, said her department “does not comment on projects they may or may not be working on.”

Others said nothing was changing.

Robert Bosch, LLC, a manufacturing company in Anderson, said for them, it was business as usual.

“Bosch will continue to operate its business as usual – with diversity as a value and with strong anti-discrimination policies,” said Linda Beckmeyer, manager of media and public relations for the company.

“Bosch is fully committed to attracting, retaining, developing and promoting the most qualified associates regardless of race, gender, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by state or local law,” she said.


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