Press Releases


By Press Releases

EVERYWHERE, TEXAS–Texas small business owners are warning that the ongoing “bathroom” debate in Texas is detrimental to their local communities and their economic security. A number of small business owners from across the state spoke on a teleconference call earlier today, noting how the high-profile debate – and ongoing damage to Texas’s brand – threaten their businesses and their employees.

Small business owners from a number of industries, including hospitality, travel and tourism, and construction, shared their concerns on today’s press call.

The debate is already impacting the state’s economy, and small businesses with it. According to data compiled by Texas Competes, $66 million in conventions have already been cancelled across the state, representing 38,000 hotel room nights. Additional threatened losses can be seen in the infographic below.

Small businesses often go unmentioned when these economic risks are discussed, but they are at the heart of the issue. Losses in tourism and corporate investment impact construction, hospitality, retail, and the myriad small businesses that make a living as vendors and supplies.

Key quotes from speakers:

MaryAnn Guido, CEO of Guido Brothers Construction in San Antonio: “We have colleagues in the construction business in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham, North Carolina who tell us that their bathroom bill debacle has been an absolute disaster for their economy and for their businesses. Even the recent repeal and modification of the original bathroom bill has hurt tourism and investment in business there. The risks to Texas, and to our business, are absolutely clear to us.”

Cindy Lo, owner of Red Velvet Events in Austin: “When we see tourists vote with their feet, it’s…small businesses and individuals who will suffer first. It’s the caterer who loses a big job, and has to lay off a chef or server. It’s the audio-visual technician who can’t balance the family budget because her hours were cut this month. It’s the entertainers and drivers, the decorators and sign-makers who see revenues drop, and who don’t have a way to quickly fill that gap. I have personally heard from a decorator we use that will be losing repeat revenue in 2018 due to this bill.”

Amber Briggle, owner of Soma Massage Therapy in Denton: “My business employs 12 people, and starting pay is $35/hour…My business relies on a strong flow of visitors to Denton (and) with the completion of the Denton Convention Center, I’ve been considering adding additional staff. But now – and as long as this manufactured bathroom debate rages on – I have to wait. If I can’t rely on tourism traffic…then I can’t take the risk of investing in expanding my business. It seems like small business owners have been forgotten in this whole thing. We’re great for talking points about being the heart and soul of Texas, but when we stand up to say that our businesses are in jeopardy, those same folks don’t seem to listen. I hope they hear us now. ”

Just Holley, owner of ABH Hotels: “Here in San Antonio, we already have 43,623 hotel nights on the line over the coming years, from actual and threatened convention cancellations. Every single cancellation will directly impact the small businesses – like our local hotels – that rely on a strong tourism economy to make ends meet. This kind of instability affects real people, who have real families and real bills to pay.” ABH Hotels manages seven properties across San Antonio, Temple, Corpus Christi, and Austin.

Jason Bodor, Senior Director of Finance and Business Strategy at tech firm GSATI in Denton: “If Texas continues down the path of leading the country in discrimination against LGBT people, we know our talent pipeline will slow. Because no matter how welcoming Denton is, no matter how welcoming our corporate culture is, we can’t overcome the stigma that the state of Texas is creating…(and), as Marketing Chair on the Board of the Denton Mainstreet Association. I am acutely aware that in the event of a major event cancellation in our soon-to-open convention center, it will negatively impact all kinds of small businesses here in Denton.”

Tony Moline, CEO of the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce: “We’ve followed this conversation closely, and we have yet to see a shred of evidence that bathroom access is a public safety or privacy risk…This is a difficult and divisive topic, but in the absence of any evidence that such regulation is needed, we feel we must speak up to protect our economy, our community, and the small businesses that rely on a thriving region in order to survive.”

Follow conversation online via Twitter at, where key quotes from the event will be shared.

Visual collateral of some speakers is available for download at – more will be available later in the day today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Texas Competes statement on California travel prohibition

By Press Releases



Contact: Jessica Shortall / / 512-297-8115

The following statement should be attributed to Jessica Shortall, Managing Director of Texas Competes:

The recent decision by California to prohibit state travel to Texas, as a result of the new HB 3859 law allowing taxpayer-funded child welfare organizations to decline service to LGBT individuals and others, is further confirmation that a discriminatory state brand creates unnecessary risk for the Texas economy.

The 2016 California travel prohibition to North Carolina, due to the state’s HB 2 “bathroom bill,” resulted in the relocation of at least one meeting – a tobacco control research conference – because California state employees were unable to travel to the state. Chapel Hill hotels lost $15,000 in revenue as a result of that cancellation. Every such cancellation, big or small, translates into lost hours for employees, lost hotel occupancy tax revenues, and lost spending in local businesses.

In Texas, we have concerns about the California travel prohibition’s impacts on future meetings, conventions, and sporting events – the latter because the California law, AB 1887, applies to the University of California and California State University systems. We are hopeful that some post-season sporting events might be exempted. However, we are concerned about scheduled and future “home-and-home” and non-conference games across all sports, and the multi-million-dollar economic impacts those games create. We are also concerned about the viability of California coach recruiting trips to Texas.

Tourism is Texas’ second-largest industry. Half of our tourism revenue comes from outside visitors. Losses in this industry have real impacts on Texans, with ripple effects felt by small businesses, workers, and local and state budgets. To ignore or belittle the risks to this industry is to ignore both the health of the state budget and the countless small businesses and families that rely on a thriving tourism economy to stay afloat.

What is clear, and what has been clear for some time, is that a discriminatory brand creates significant and unnecessary economic risk for the state of Texas. Texas Competes will continue to call for a welcoming, inclusive state as a matter of economic competitiveness and long-term health.


Texas Competes is a public education-focused coalition of more than 1,300 Texas employers, chambers of commerce, and convention & visitors bureaus making the economic case that Texas must be welcoming to LGBT people.

Bathroom Bill Debate Has Earned Texas $216 Million In Unwanted Publicity in 2017

By Press Releases

Rhetoric and action targeting transgender Texan adults and children are part of the Texas brand

**This data has been updated to reflect an additional $8.81m in publicity in the period from5/23/17 to the morning of 5/26/17. This additional coverage has a “sentiment” score of -100%.

A review of press coverage shows that the Texas “bathroom bill” debate generated $225 million in publicity for the state of Texas in the period from January 10, 2016 to May 26, 2017

During the 85th Texas legislative session, more than 25,000 local, state, and national articles were written about the efforts to pass bathroom and changing room restrictions on transgender adults and children. More than 21,000 of these articles were published outside of Texas.

The media tracking service Meltwater was used to generate the data; its language-detecting algorithm deemed 72% of the coverage, or $162.26 million, “neutral;” 26.1%, or $58.67 million, “negative;” and 1.8%, or $4 million, “positive.” A review of coverage categorized as “positive” by the software revealed that these stories largely described efforts by performing artists, businesses, sports organizations and others to protest “bathroom bills.” Overall, the sentiment calculated across all news coverage was deeply negative, as seen in the chart below. (The February 2017 spike in sentiment was largely related to a “positive” story covering the NBA’s decision to move its All-Star Game from Charlotte to the LGBT-inclusive city of New Orleans.)

The topic of bathroom restrictions for transgender Texans has been shepherded into the spotlight by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and vocal anti-LGBT backers like Empower Texans, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and Texas Values.

Texas business leaders and small business owners have consistently cited the war for talent as a major concern related to the state’s anti-LGBT reputation. “HR executives and business leaders voice concern to us when stories about discrimination dominate the news about Texas,” said Jessica Shortall, Managing Director of Texas Competes, a coalition of nearly 1,300 Texas employers and chambers of commerce making the economic case for an LGBT-friendly Texas. “We cannot maintain the pipeline of talent needed to fuel this state’s economy in the face of national coverage that tells young workers that Texas is in the business of discrimination.”

In a February UT/TT 2017 poll, a majority of Texans said that it’s “not important” for the legislature to pass a bathroom law. In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a poll showing that 53% of Americans oppose laws requiring transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. In a recent USA TODAY poll, Americans aged 18 to 35 – a group representing the current and future talent pool for many Texas employers – oppose bathroom laws by nearly a two-to-one ratio.


Source: Meltwater

Texas businesses and citizens can learn more about Texas Competes at The Texas Competes pledge is free for any Texas employer, large or small, to sign. Almost 1,300 Texas businesses and chambers of commerce have signed the pledge since 2015.