Business leaders say Texas economy could take big hit from bathroom bill

Companies say employees, meetings and conventions could move elsewhere if bill is passed

gender neutral bathroom sign
Gender neutral bathroom sign (KXAN Photo/ Jay Wiles)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Texas lawmakers return to the Texas State Capitol for the special session, major companies are pouring their resources into preventing the passage of what’s known as the “bathroom bill.” If passed, it would require transgender people to use the bathroom that correlates with their biological sex, rather than that of the gender they identify with.

Business leaders with ties to the Lone Star State say the proposed legislation would hurt the state’s economy and damage companies’ recruiting efforts.

IBM is leading the businesses’ effort against the bill. The company placed full page ads in newspapers across Texas, promoted its efforts on social media and flew in top executives from across the country to lobby at the state capital Tuesday.

“We’re connected to Texas,” said Austin-based head of global design for IBM Phil Gilbert. “We’ve been investing here. We want to invest here in the future.”

IBM employs 10,000 people in Texas alone, and Austin’s research site is the second largest IBM facility in the country.

But, Gilbert says pushing what he calls discriminatory legislation could potentially lead to a decline in Texas employees.

“These jobs can be done anywhere,” Gilbert said. “So more and more, we have to listen to our people and we have to create environments and spaces that let them do their work where they want to do it.”

Gilbert says many of his employees are strongly against the bathroom bill, and if it passes, they could relocate.

Austin Chamber of Commerce Director of Policy Drew Scheberle says Texas could also expect a direct hit when it comes to meetings and events held in the state.

“We’ve been hearing from conventions, we’ve been hearing from companies and tech companies, we’ve been hearing from Millennials that they want a city and they want a state that’s open and inclusive,” Scheberle said. “They want to feel welcome.”

Scheberle says the impacts on tourism alone could be detrimental to the local economy.

“North Carolina was a great example because it lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.”

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