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 www.twitter.com/txcompetes, where key quotes from the event will be shared.
Visual collateral of some speakers is available for download at https://drive.google.com/