New business

Could Georgia’s relaxed gun laws mean new business for NC?

OPINION AND COMMENT

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If there’s one thing Governor Roy Cooper loves, it’s being a cheerleader for North Carolina. He traveled the state to celebrate the arrival of new jobs in the state. A few weeks ago, he went on CNBC to celebrate the state’s designation as the nation’s best for business. And on Monday he spear NC as the new location for Music Midtown, the Atlanta-based festival that announced this week that it will be canceling its 2022 event.

“Come to North Carolina,” the governor said on Twitter and Facebook. “We’re ready to welcome you to one of our amazing outdoor spaces to help you have a fun and safe festival.”

The word “safe” is essential here. While LiveNation (the group behind Music Midtown) declined to comment on the cancellation, reporters linked the decision to a 2014 law that allows people to be visibly armed on public property. In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that this included private events on public lands like, say, a giant music festival in a city-owned park in Atlanta.

An appeals court upheld that decision this year, leaving festival organizers vulnerable to lawsuits if they go ahead with the festival under their current firearms restrictions. No legal action was taken, but the threat was raised by Patrick Evans, the man behind the original case in the state Supreme Court. Organizers who spoke anonymously with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also raised the possibility of performers pulling out of the event if guns were allowed in the crowd.

North Carolina is no stranger to losing business because of bad policy. In 2017, The Associated Press calculated that the transphobic “Bathroom Bill,” HB 2, would cost the state $3.7 billion over 12 years. While parts of the bill were repealed by HB 142 and the provision of that bill prohibiting anti-discrimination laws was lifted in 2020, the state still lost at least 1,400 jobs and between $450 and $630 million in the months following the passage of the bill. . Wilmington’s film industry stagnated thanks to HB 2 and changes in incentives for filmmakers, coincidentally moving some of those sets to Georgia.

Of course, North Carolina isn’t perfect. Although we still have access to abortion and haven’t legislated to eliminate trans people, we still risk both of these things and more. North Carolina also has a mixed relationship with guns. People with the proper permits are allowed to open firearms, but cannot bring them into public spaces where they are explicitly prohibited, such as schools or private events in parks.

Republicans in North Carolina should take note of the backlash Georgia is facing. If they don’t want to consider the myriad other reasons why gun laws need to be toughened, or voting rights need to be protected, or abortions need to be an option, they should at least consider the impacts economic. Turning to the far right is not good for attracting events and businesses to your state.

Besides the practical aspect, there is also the question of cultural reputation. Atlanta is considered a southern hub for music; North Carolina as a whole does not have the same association. We have several medium-sized festivals, but they all tend to fall into specific genres: EDM at Charlotte’s Breakaway, hip-hop at Dreamville, etc. record labels and artists who live in the area. They might also decide that we’re not cool enough.

Still, Music Midtown seems like an event the governor, business owners, and music fans would love to see move here. Mary Scott Winstead, Cooper’s assistant director of communications, said in an email that there have been no formal discussions with festival organizers, but it’s something they are open to.

“The Governor constantly promotes North Carolina as a destination for business, special events, travel and tourism,” Winstead told me.

The festival, for its part, has not responded to me, a News & Observer reporter, or the governor. The festival has been canceled altogether, so people who bought tickets are being reimbursed. If the festival really were to move to North Carolina, it’s unlikely they could finish planning in such a short time.

But if they are, North Carolina would provide something Georgia can’t, at least right now.

Sara Pequeño is a Raleigh-based opinion writer for McClatchy’s opinion team in North Carolina and a member of the editorial board. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and has been writing in North Carolina ever since.