Drug company reconsiders $20M North Carolina factory over new law

RALEIGH, N.C. –  North Carolina's governor met Thursday with gay-rights advocates bearing a letter signed by more than 100 corporate executives urging him to repeal the nation's first state law limiting the bathroom options for transgender people.

The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections, and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

The governor "appreciated the opportunity to sit down and deal with these complex issues through conversation and dialogue as opposed to political threats and economic retaliation," his spokesman, Josh Ellis, said in a statement.

The advocates declined to describe Gov. Pat McCrory's response.

Some companies are already reconsidering doing business in the country's ninth-largest state.

New Jersey-based Braeburn Pharmaceuticals said it is "reevaluating our options based on the recent, unjust legislation" whether to build a $20 million manufacturing and research facility in Durham County. The 50 new jobs paying an average of nearly $76,000 a year were announced two weeks ago.

Lionsgate, the California-based entertainment company, had been lining up hotel and equipment rentals and hiring more than 100 workers in North Carolina, but decided to shoot its pilot episode for a comedy series in Canada instead, said Jennifer Irvine, a Charlotte production coordinator.

Charlotte convention officials and the organizers of one of the world's largest furniture markets say some customers have pulled out, also citing the new law.

Changing business plans is much more difficult for companies with existing investments in buildings, equipment and people, but the outsized lobbying power of major corporations could reshape how prospective talent and investors perceive North Carolina as a place they want to be, business observers said.

"These companies have made long-term investments or are thinking about long-term investments in North Carolina" and won't likely retreat solely due to this law, said DJ Peterson, who advises companies on political, social and economic issues as founder of Longview Global Advisors, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

But as businesses showed Georgia this week, "the political pressure, the visibility they're bringing to the issue, politicians do have to pay attention to it," Peterson said.

After Walt Disney Co., Marvel Studios and Salesforce.com threatened to take their business elsewhere and the NFL suggested Atlanta could lose its bids for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a measure that would have allowed individuals, businesses and faith organizations to deny services to others based on their "sincerely held religious beliefs."

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