RALEIGH (WTVD) --He couldn't get the smile off his face. Fresh off a business trip from Europe, North Carolina's chief businessman hailed the recently-passed House Bill 142, the compromise bill rolling back HB2.
"It's a big cloud off of us," Anthony Copeland, NC Secretary of Commerce, proclaimed to ABC11. "We're about the future - not about focusing on negative social issues. We're about progress, we're about having a well-educated workforce."
In an exclusive sit down interview with ABC11, Copeland laid out a blueprint for how he plans to reconnect with companies that were wary of HB2, the controversial legislation described as anti-LGBTQ.
"What we have to do is to be in the Financial Times, the New York Times, Washington Post, and where we've been for the last year from a negative stance - to start moving this in another direction," Copeland added.
He certainly has a tough task: PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and Lionsgate all chose to stay away from North Carolina because of their opposition to HB2. After the bill's passage in March 2016, more than 100 companies signed a letter urging the state to repeal the law.
"I think you have to talk to everyone, not just other business. Your neighbors, your church. Tell everyone that this is what we're about. We're about the future," he said.
The secretary explained that there are several companies out there who will consider North Carolina for the first time.
"The elephant is out of the room," he said.
Critics of the compromise, however, are quick to point out the moratorium still in place preventing cities from adding LGBTQ protections to its non-discrimination ordinances. Asked about the potential backlash, Copeland said people need to look forward to consider the positives of bipartisanship.
"Democracy isn't perfect. This is not the end. It's the start of a very good ending. We're on the right side of history now," he said.
Many business leaders have responded positively to the repeal. Governor Cooper's office emailed out a list of statements Friday.
Among them, Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, said "Red Hat applauds the bipartisan effort that led to the passage of HB142 in North Carolina, which represents important progress in fostering inclusiveness, economic growth, and jobs creation. Red Hat remains committed to greater diversity and inclusion to strengthen the fabric of our company, community, and state."
Brad Wilson, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, said "I commend Gov. Cooper, House Speaker Moore, and Senator Berger for achieving a bipartisan compromise that enables North Carolina to move past HB2 and restore our state's reputation. North Carolina is stronger today because the two parties worked together."
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