Conventions Canceled & Amazon, Dell, Hyatt Saying No, Will GOP Listen?

(left to right) Nashville Mayor Cooper, Tennessee Governor Lee, Businesswoman & Billionaire Pritzker

Monday could have been a very sobering day for Nashville Tourism and politics. Executives from two notable Nashville employers reiterated their company’s opposition. Representatives from Amazon and Dell Technologies added their disagreement with the way in which Tennessee politics were headed. 

Besides those two powerhouses of business and economics, three other organizations have spoken up by cancelling their large conventions that were booked for Nashville. These cancellations were in reaction to the law Governor Lee signed into being last month – a ban on transgender youth athletes as it requires athletes at public middle and high schools to play on the team that aligns with their sex as determined at birth.  This is just the first of many anti-LGBT bills that are being inbred in Tennessee politics. 

“These are anti-tourism bills,” said Rob Mortensen, the head of the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association. 

Nashville Mayor John Cooper also warned that these antics of the state legislation targeting LGBT people will lead to economic concerns for the state as they will continue to drive companies and conventions away from Nashville and the state.

“Workforce is everything in economic development. Companies are locating where they think they can have and attract a workforce. A 21st century workforce expects a 21st century attitude when it comes to inclusion. Companies having their workforce feel comfortable in Nashville — they take that for granted because we have 21st century attitudes here. Nashville is so welcoming, so diverse. We don’t want to risk a different narrative. I don’t want to let us become viewed as a backwater, nationally.” – Nashville Business Journal

It is awful to boil down an anti-humanitarian string of legislation into “what’s it gonna do to the economy”, but apparently that is how you get through to legislators that forget they are human, too.

And that is how Billionaire Jennifer Pritzker has had to address Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and legislators who are pursuing a multitude of anti-LGBT legislation.

Even a billionaire cannot have an effect, but with her power and friends, Pritzker has joined a group of more than 40 corporations and nearly 140 small businesses statewide in signing the Chamber of Commerce’s open letter opposing the legislation.

Pritzker’s is one of 10 of her family members on the Forbes Billionaire list and has her personal net worth listed at $2 billion.  Her family earned her money through the Hyatt Hotels Corp. which they started.  She’s also founder and CEO of Tawani Enterprises Inc., an umbrella company that includes real estate holdings, private equity investments and hotels. Pritzker, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, was a longtime supporter and donor of the Republican Party, but when Trump announced his transgender military ban in 2017, the money stopped going to the GOP.

In a letter to Lee and legislators, publicized Monday by the LGBT Chamber, Pritzker declared that the state was “vying for the title of least-inclusive in the nation” and added that “Tennessee is clearly not the friendly, inclusive state for business as I was led to believe.”

What other bills are supposedly being formed by the anti-LGBT republicans in Tennessee?

  • The Tennessee House has approved a bill requiring public entities and private companies operating places open to the general public to post multiple signs if a bathroom can be used by either sex, “regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
  • a possible bill banning access to gender-affirming medical treatment for prepubescent children, requires multiple approvals from doctors and psychiatrists for older children, and makes it a Class A misdemeanor to violate the law.

Once again, it’s sad that we as educated people need to curtail the activities of the lesser humane individuals with threats of economic downturn.  In a nation that will be recovering from COVID-19 complications for years, it’s uncomfortable when you have to mention the loss of jobs because of the ignorant activities the powers that be are taking. 

https://www.pbs.org/video/jennifer-pritzker-gops-policies-marginalize-me-9s4aqb/


Pritzker’s full statement: COURTESY OF TAWANI ENTERPRISES INC.

“As someone with deep roots in Tennessee, I was excited to make this state the home of my family’s private trust company. Our team has had a great experience working with the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, and I have always felt welcome by that Department, and all who work there. Under the governor at that time, Tennessee presented itself as an inclusive place that would continue to welcome people of all backgrounds. Yet now, with the currently proposed and recently passed anti-LGBTQ legislation – 15 filings this year alone and more than 70 filed since 2015 – Tennessee is clearly not the friendly, inclusive state for business as I was led to believe.

“As a transgender woman, these unnecessary and hurtful laws are personal to me. But as a businesswoman, my larger concern is the impact they will have on Tennessee’s reputation and, ultimately, economic well-being, as businesses and tourists turn elsewhere. No state benefits from the perception that it is an intolerant and unwelcome place for people of different backgrounds, and it alarms me gravely to see this state vying for the title of least inclusive in the nation.

“As a result, Governor Lee and a majority of the State Legislators are creating an environment that will force me to consider moving my family’s business out of Tennessee. Furthermore, given that many families have at least one relative identifying as LGBTQ, I suspect other families will also consider moving out of Tennessee – and, when evaluating it for purposes of domiciling a private trust company, will not choose this state for the same reasons.

“As a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, and a longtime conservative with hopes for resuming my support for the Republican Party, I also find these laws un-American and anything but conservative. The government should not be censoring teachers, and forcing businesses to hang stigmatizing signs outside bathrooms just because the state’s political leaders deem some people ‘abnormal.’ Be aware, this opens the door to all kinds of discrimination: against women, people of color — your sisters, daughters, neighbors, friends. Anyone political leaders decide is ‘lesser than,’ ‘different than’ or ‘unworthy of equal protections under the law.’

“Many of us feel deceived and defrauded by these developments, having been enticed to do business in the state under the false pretense that it would remain inclusive. If the legislature insists on embracing division and exclusion, we may have little choice but to pull our business out, harming workers and their families the most. I implore this state’s political leaders to embrace unity, and the economic interests of all Tennesseans.”

Woolley warned that companies looking to relocate or expand into Tennessee may adopt the same thinking.

“We are playing with fire, to see if companies actually don’t come here because of that issue,” Woolley said. “Let’s not put any of those in jeopardy by passing this legislation. … These legislators — they call themselves pro-business Republicans — are the ones passing this legislation and harming the state’s economy, harming the state’s image in the rest of the country as a welcoming and inclusive place to do business and move your company.”

Source: Nashville Business Journal

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