Amid the growing backlash to the state’s H.B.2 law that restricts local government’s rights to expand protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people, Wilmington business leaders will host a forum tonight to discuss the impact of the bill on the local economy.
The event is hosted by TekMountain, a local startup “incubator” that helps tech businesses develop, which has publically opposed the law. Organizers said the event would start at 5:30 p.m. at TekMountain’s offices on 1844 Sir Tyler Drive and would include six panelists, with WECT’s Ashlea Kosikowski serving as moderator.
“The focus of the panel will create an open discourse on how to continue creating strong, innovative and inclusive companies while working within the framework of a law with which companies and employees may not agree,” the event notice said.
Sean Ahlum, director of business development at TekMountain, said the event was scheduled quickly as the backlash to the bill continues to mount, upon the urging of TekMountain and parent company CastleBranch CEO Brett Martin. Online payment service PayPal announced this week that it would cancel a planned expansion to Charlotte.
“We believe in the greater entrepreneurial and tech family in North Carolina, including those members of the family that are underrepresented,” Ahlum said.
Ahlum said they expected political leaders from not only New Hanover County, but also from Pender and Brunswick counties as well. On Tuesday, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said that city leaders would discuss the impact of the bill with its local state delegation at an upcoming meeting.
“Wilmington is and always will be a welcoming city that takes pride in its diversity,” Saffo said.
Wilmington city council member Kevin O’Grady said at Tuesday’s meeting that the council would not have supported H.B. 2, raising concerns about the state’s intrusion into local authority.
“If the legislature is going to pass some sweeping legislation, they need to talk to us. They’re not listening,” O’Grady said. “We never would have supported a law that callously excludes a part of the population. This legislation does not and will not change the character of our community.”