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U.S. NEWSSaturday 16 April 2016

Market boycott due to LGBT law could hurt state’s economy 

EMERY P. DALESIO                Richard Fritz, left, and Jessica Weisner, right, of Painted Plate Ca-            traditional furniture city of   impact.
AP Business Writer              tering stock a cooler with beverages at the High Point Market in                 100,000 every six months for
HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) —         High Point, N.C.                                                                 a five-day spend-a-thon.        But an extended boycott
Furniture retailer Ron Wer-                                                                                      This year, however, the High
ner usually spends $2 million                                                           (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)  Point Market’s organizers       could “whittle away the
a year at North Carolina’s                                                                                       are warning that thousands
gargantuan, semiannual          do we jump on a plane          dition of commerce that                           of attendees could skip         competitiveness of the
furniture market, but he’s      and go to North Carolina?      brings an estimated $5 bil-                       the event, which starts Sat-    built-up advantage that
skipping this week’s event.     They put up a sign that says,  lion a year in economic                           urday. Among those who          High Point has,” Lester said.
Werner knows not attend-        ‘Gay? Stay away.’ “            activity to North Carolina.                       won’t be attending are          Lester noted that furniture
ing the High Point Market       Some fear that Werner’s        About 75,000 buyers and                           buyers for Williams-Sonoma      purchased from manufac-
will mean missing an early      decision might start a wave    sellers from around the                           Inc. retail outlets, including  turers within 75 miles of the
look at new trends that         that could damage a tra-       world usually cram into this                      Pottery Barn and West Elm,      city accounts for about half
could get hot later on,                                                                                          spokesman Pat Connolly          of the market’s $5 billion
translating to big sales for                                                                                     said Friday.                    economic impact. A 5 per-
his own  business. But he                                                                                        The High Point Market re-       cent drop in market sales
said the state left him little                                                                                   mains vibrant after 107         could translate into a loss
choice when it passed a                                                                                          years because it’s still less   of more than $100 million
law last month that critics                                                                                      expensive for exhibitors        for North Carolina furniture
say discriminates against                                                                                        than shows in Las Vegas,        manufacturers, which em-
lesbian, gay, bisexual and                                                                                       Dallas or Milan, said T. Wil-   ploy about 14,000 workers.
transgender people.                                                                                              liam Lester, a city and re-     “These are jobs that are re-
“The state just came out                                                                                         gional planning professor       ally difficult to grow at new
with this nasty and mean-                                                                                        at the University of North      companies and we want to
spirited law that provides                                                                                       Carolina at Chapel Hill who     hold onto these manufac-
for state-sanctioned dis-                                                                                        co-authored a 2013 study        turing jobs as much as pos-
crimination,” he said. “How                                                                                      on the market’s economic        sible,” he said. “These are
                                                                                                                                                 solid, middle-income jobs
                                                                                                                                                 for people who don’t have
                                                                                                                                                 an advanced degree.”
                                                                                                                                                 The state’s tourism industry
                                                                                                                                                 also stands to suffer.
                                                                                                                                                 Werner said he canceled
                                                                                                                                                 a five-day reservation of
                                                                                                                                                 a four-bedroom private
                                                                                                                                                 home he’d rented for his
                                                                                                                                                 five-person team — at a
                                                                                                                                                 cost of $2,700 — and adds
                                                                                                                                                 he won’t be entertaining at
                                                                                                                                                 the High Point restaurant he
                                                                                                                                                 has frequented for years.
                                                                                                                                                 If only 2,000 of the estimat-
                                                                                                                                                 ed 58,000 out-of-town mar-
                                                                                                                                                 ket visitors like Werner stay
                                                                                                                                                 away from High Point, it
                                                                                                                                                 could mean a loss of about
                                                                                                                                                 $15 million in lodging, food
                                                                                                                                                 and other tourism-related
                                                                                                                                                 spending, Lester said.

                                                                                                                                                 The boycott is one of a

                                                                                                                                                 number of protests spurred

                                                                                                                                                 by the new North Carolina

                                                                                                                                                 law enacted last month,

                                                                                                                                                 which directs transgen-

                                                                                                                                                 der people to use public

                                                                                                                                                 toilets corresponding to

                                                                                                                                                 the sex listed on their birth

                                                                                                                                                 certificate. The law also ex-

                                                                                                                                                 cludes LGBT people from

                                                                                                                                                 state anti-discrimination

                                                                                                                                                 protections, blocks local

                                                                                                                                                 governments from expand-

                                                                                                                                                 ing LGBT protections, and

                                                                                                                                                 bars all types of workplace

                                                                                                                                                 discrimination lawsuits from
                                                                                                                                                 state courts.q
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