Georgia’s anti-gay bill could cost Atlanta $6 billion

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The controversy over Georgia's anti-gay “religious freedom” bill now has a price tag: $6 billion. That's how much convention business has threatened to pull out of Atlanta if Gov. Nathan Deal allows the legislation to become law.

Some 15 companies have told the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau they are considering pulling their convention business out of Atlanta. Because House Bill 757. The economic fallout from that would be a whopper, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

If all 15 companies concerned about the bill decide not to come, that could cost the city up to $6 billion, [ACVB President and CEO William] Pate (photo) said.

Last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said if Deal doesn't veto the legislation, the company will reduce its investments in Atlanta and move the Salesforce Connections conference “to a state that provides a more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community.”

But convention officials said Tuesday that another conference – worth $10 million to $15 million to the city – will decide this week if it will bolt over the “religious freedom” bill, according to 11 Alive. That could be the first domino of several to fall over the legislation.

“They’re on a very short window, and they need to find another city in which to take their business,” said ACVB President and CEO William Pate.  “We know the governor has said he's not going to consider this [bill] until April, and so we fully expect that piece of business is going to be our first casualty… It’s about a $10 Million to $15 Million piece of business… a very significant piece of business for the city.”

So, Pate said, the mere possibility that the bill might become law is already hurting the Georgia economy.

Pate said the 15 additional companies, so far, that have announced they may also move their conventions out of Atlanta over the next five years account for up to 40 percent of the city’s convention business, costing the city’s economy up to $6 Billion a year.

Mayor Kasim Reed warned last week that he was already hearing form business leaders concerned about the legislation. Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. 

The General Assembly passed a rewritten House Bill 757 on March 16, adding to a growing national backlash over the legislation that critics say amounts to “a license to discriminate” against LGBT people and others. 

The state's three openly gay lawmakers blasted the bill on Monday. The next day, a chief architect of the legislation defended it.

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