Georgia on the Edge: LGBTQ Non-Discrimination and the Fight for Amazon’s Attention

On September 7 of this year, multi-billion dollar retailer Amazon announced plans to open a second headquarters, known informally as HQ2, outside of their main campus in Seattle, Washington.

Since then, cities and states across the country have been frenzied in pitching themselves to the company as a prime option for real estate, investment, and workforce. With the high likelihood that Amazon will seek to locate this new headquarters on or near the East Coast, Atlanta has become the focus of Georgia’s effort to woo the company into calling the Peach State its second home.

Wherever HQ2 ends up, economies at the city and state level will experience a significant boon. Amazon’s initial investment could total as much as $5 billion, with tax credits nearing $850 million and the creation of more than 50,000 new jobs. However, among the many requirements Amazon has regarding its new location is a commitment to diversity and inclusion, a topic that Georgia has not traditionally led on, particularly in the last couple of years regarding the LGBTQ community.

In 2016, legislators in Georgia presented HB 757, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which supporters claimed would have protected the sincerely held religious beliefs of business owners by allowing them to deny services to LGBTQ people and offering no recourse for those discriminated against.

Opponents called the legislation what is was: state sanctioned anti-LGBTQ discrimination that would adversely affect Georgia’s economy. Despite heavy protest from the LGBTQ community and the larger Georgia business community, the bill passed through the General Assembly and went to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk for signature.

However, defying the legislature, Deal vetoed the bill, saying, “I have yet to see a factual justification for it in the state of Georgia. I do not know of a single instance where having a statute of that type would have changed the circumstances in any situation in our state.”

Governor Deal, in his veto, likely looked at the consequences faced earlier by states who had passed anti-LGBTQ legislation to the tune of public outcry and severe economic consequences. Indiana pushed through the bill that was the model for Georgia’s, signed at the time by then-Governor Mike Pence. When major conventions and investments began to pull resources from the state, and official government travel to Indiana was suspended by dozens of cities and states nationwide, the Indiana legislature repealed the law.

However, the most significant case of harms caused by discriminating against the LGBTQ community came in the form of HB2 in North Carolina. Although the bill did not deal with religious discrimination, it did explicitly seek to bar transgender individuals from using public accommodations that match the gender they know themselves to be, and it was described as one of the most anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation to ever be put into law.

Backlash was immediate; entertainers pulled their concerts and events from the state, major companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank canceled plans for expansion, and sports organizations such as the NCAA and the NBA withdrew their agreements to host tournaments and games in the state. All in all, North Carolina lost upwards of $600 million in economic investment and growth, not to mention thousands of jobs and its reputation. The outcry even led to the ouster of Governor Pat McCrory, who lost his bid for re-election last year.

We already know the economic consequences that Georgia faces without comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In January 2017, UCLA’s Williams Institute released a report detailing how, “stigma and discrimination have been linked to negative economic impacts.” According to the report:

  • Public and private sector businesses stand to lose approximately $9,100 for every worker that leaves the state or changes jobs because of workplace discrimination
  • Anti-LGBTQ discrimination could cost Georgia taxpayers upwards of $1 million in state Medicaid expenditures.
  • With the negative health impacts associated with anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the state could lose more than $256 million each year in increased healthcare costs.  

On November 3, Governor Deal hosted an event where he unveiled that Georgia once again was declared the No. 1 state for business, based largely on its tourism dollars, with industry revenue in the last year near $3.1 billion and employment at 450,000 workers.

The state has successes to be proud of, and by passing comprehensive non-discrimination protections, we will continue to improve our standing as a great place to live and work. The selection of HQ2’s location is another “Olympic moment” for Georgia, and to attract the best in business, we must unequivocally state that we are open for business to everyone.

Do you believe in nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people? Click here to join our business coalition!

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Atlanta Hawks’ Vice Chair Grant Hill Joins Georgia Prospers Advisory Board

February 26, 2016 by admin

ATLANTA – Georgia Prospers, a coalition of more than 350 businesses across the state supporting an inclusive, open workplace, today announced that Grant Hill, vice chair of the board and a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, has joined the Georgia Prospers Advisory Board and voiced his support for the coalition.

“It is so important to keep alive the values of good sportsmanship, fairness and inclusion that were engrained in me as an athlete,” said Grant Hill, a seven-time NBA All Star. “That’s why I believe in the good work of Georgia Prospers. It is critical, now more than ever, that our state supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”

“Throughout his career as a basketball player in the college and professional ranks, Grant Hill epitomized class and true sportsmanship,” said Ronnie Chance, executive director of Georgia Prospers. “Now in his career in the business world, Mr. Hill has brought that same approach as co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks.”

After his NBA career, Hill turned his attention to founding and contributing to various philanthropic foundations and scholarship programs. Hill and his wife founded the Tamia & Grant Hill Foundation, which is located in Orlando. Through their foundation, they have donated their time and money to charities, schools, scholarships, nonprofit organizations and churches. Most of their donations support children’s and educational charities. Among their philanthropic endeavors, Mr. and Mrs. Hill are also on the National Advisory Council Board of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In October 2015, Hill was honored with the Athlete Ally Action Award for his work on issues in the LGBT community. “Grant Hill is a committed ally, and the power of influential athletes like Hill speaking out is undeniable,” said Athlete Ally Director of Policy and Campaigns Ashland Johnson, a former Atlanta resident. “At every turn, Hill has stood up for inclusion and respect. We are so proud to see Hill’s leadership on LGBT equality and inclusion in Georgia at a time when the state needs allies the most.” Athlete Ally is a nonprofit focused on educating and activating athletic communities to exercise their leadership to champion LGBT equality.

About Georgia Prospers
The state of Georgia’s continued prosperity depends on a strong business brand and high quality of life that provides an open and inclusive home for all. This is how we remain a premier home for talented workers, growing businesses, entrepreneurial innovation and a thriving travel and tourism industry. We must be diligent and vocal in our support for diversity and inclusion to meet our employees’ and customers’ expectations. Attracting the next generation of workforce demands it. Learn more at www.georgiaprospers.org

 

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‘Religious liberty’ bill spurs cheers and warnings for Georgia economy

February 26, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article at the AJC

Corporate concerns over Georgia’s latest “religious liberty” legislation have taken on a new urgency following passage last week of a measure that would allow opponents of same-sex marriage to cite their beliefs in denying services to gay couples.

It comes as religious conservatives over the weekend celebrated the Georgia Senate’s vote to approve House Bill 757, sending the measure for a final look by the state House as soon as this week.

“To our Founding Fathers, there was simply nothing more important to our nation than the freedom to live by our religious convictions and to practice our faith free from the tyranny of those who mock our deeply held faith,” said J. Robert White, the executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “It is wrong to accuse persons of discrimination who live and conduct their businesses according to their deeply held religious beliefs.”

But both small businesses owners and corporate leaders have begun to speak out directly about what they said would be a crippling economic impact if the bill becomes law.

HB 757 would enable faith-based organizations and individuals to opt out of serving couples — gay or straight — or following anti-discrimination requirements if they cite a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction regarding marriage.

“It would really do irreparable harm to our brand as a state,” said Brian Tolleson, who owns a digital entertainment company called Bark Bark that works with studios and media companies on everything from production to marketing.

“This very assembly working on this bill has invested billions of taxpayer dollars growing an industry that would leave this state,” said Tolleson, who has clients from New York to Los Angeles. “They will boycott coming to shoot anything here. The powers that be in the industry really want to defeat Georgia’s rise as an entertainment destination. And we’re handing it to them on a silver platter.”

The executives of 373k, a telecom startup based in Decatur, decided to move to Nevada immediately after the Georgia Senate approved the measure Friday.

Founder Kelvin Williams said in an interview that he knows the legislation is not yet law — and may be substantially changed or halted — but that he was so disgusted by the legislation that he decided to call the moving vans.

“It makes no sense. It’s absolutely unnecessary. We are a startup and we are trying to get the best talent we can,” said Williams, who is gay. “And I don’t want to be in a state where it is hard to attract the best talent.”

Leaders of the 1.3 million-member Georgia Baptist Mission Board have led an effort for the past two years to call on lawmakers to pass bills they said would protect religious viewpoints and prevent discrimination against religious groups. This year, for the first time, they explicitly linked the effort to same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that state prohibitions on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Tolleson’s remarks about the entertainment industry come as Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this year forcefully defended tax breaks that have made Georgia a hub for the film industry.

The film tax credit cost the state more than a quarter of a billion dollars. But Deal in January told lawmakers and others that it was worth the tradeoff, citing a trade industry group’s estimation that the film and television industry is responsible for more than 79,000 jobs, roughly $4 billion in wages and has helped bring 120 more firms to Georgia in the past seven years.

Senate leaders, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, have said the bill is narrowly written and aims to protect groups or people such as a faith-based adoption agency, local youth group or preachers who sincerely believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, or that sexual relations between two people are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Other business owners, however, said it wasn’t just the entertainment industry that could feel the effect of the legislation.

“For 95 percent of people, it is very difficult to distinguish all of the subtleties of this bill’s effect,” said Michael Russell, the CEO of the Atlanta-based HJ Russell & Co — one of the largest minority-owned real estate firms in the nation. “At the end of the day, I’m very concerned about the message it sends: The leaders of this state are not providing a positive climate of inclusion.”

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, whose chamber has yet to take up the Senate measure, said Monday, “We’ve been hearing those concerns all along, not just from the film industry but from other sectors in our economy here in Georgia.”

“It’s a very emotional issue,” he added. “It’s an issue that is going to have consequences.”

Deal said Monday that the legislation is a work in progress and that he and his top aides are working with Ralston and other legislative leaders.

“We’re working with the leadership of the General Assembly now as that bill is continuing to move through the process,” he said. “So we’ll see.”

He added, “I don’t comment until things are finalized, but it’s not finalized yet.”

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Pastor Protection Act Returns to the House

February 26, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article at Georgia Pol

House Speaker David Ralston told reporters today that the Pastor Protection Act as amended by the Senate is on his desk, awaiting action by the House, which could take one of several forms. However, with the House passing campus carry and being in session until late this afternoon, nothing has been done with it so far. Said the Speaker,

I haven’t read it, and I’ll get around to reading it and talking to the people that worked it through the committee process over here. I was very proud of the committee process on the House side because we had a very thorough discussion about it, and passed what I believed was a good product.

I was a little concerned with the process on the other side to add what seems to be, from what I’ve heard, a rather large add-on without having it vetted in what I view to be a thorough, reasonable and proper way.

Following the passage of the bill in the Senate on Friday, the measure was criticized in blogs and on social media, and at least one company threatened to leave the state. And, at a celebration of the state’s involvement in the film industry this morning, Governor Deal was asked whether he was concerned that Georgia’s investment, and the $6 billion per year it brings in might be in jeopardy. Speaker Ralston applauded the governor’s leadership trying to resolve the issue, and shares his concerns about the opposition he’s hearing to the measure.

We have to listen to that. I dont think we can turn a blind eye to that. I don’t think we can let that control the debate exclusively, but I also don’t think that we can just ignore the consequences that other states have experienced that we would prefer not to have to have happen here in Georgia.

I think that should counsel us to move deliberately and carefully and thoroughly on this issue. It’s a very emotional issue, an issue that’s going to have consequences.

The Speaker has no deadline for acting on the Pastor Protection Act, short of the end of the session on Sine Die. But, he appeared optimistic. “I think we’re going to come up with a solution that’s really going to be for the common good of the state,” he said.

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Film companies threaten to leave if religious liberty bill passes

February 23, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article at WSBTV

ATLANTA —

Many business leaders are telling Georgia lawmakers that the controversial religious freedom bill could have billion-dollar consequences.

Channel 2’s Lori Geary went to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau where some people say if the bill passes, it could cost the convention and hotel industry $4 billion over the next two years.

Supporters of the bill say they’re skeptical of the numbers.

The fight over religious freedom at the Georgia Capitol is heating up behind closed doors.

On Friday, the Georgia Senate passed the “First Amendment Defense Act.”

Supporters, including the Faith and Freedom Coalition, say it protects faith-based organizations like adoption agencies from losing state funds if they refuse services to same-sex couples.

“It doesn’t matter if you believe in traditional marriage or you believe in nontraditional, you’re protected from adverse state action,” says Virginia Galloway, Regional Field Director for Faith and Freedom Coalition.

But the business community is concerned what happened in Indiana could happen in Georgia when companies and major sporting events threatened boycotts over a similar religious freedom bill.

“We could find ourselves in a situation like Indiana, except it’s going to be multiplied exponentially,” said Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President William Pate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked to representatives with the entertainment industry who also issued a warning.

“This very assembly working on this bill has invested billions of taxpayer dollars growing an industry that would leave this state,” said Brian Tolleson, who owns an Atlanta-based digital entertainment company called Bark Bark and works with studios and media companies from New York City to Los Angeles.

“They will boycott coming to shoot anything here,” Tolleson said. “The powers that be in the industry really want to defeat Georgia’s rise as entertainment destination. And we’re handing it to them on a silver platter.”

House Speaker David Ralston says Georgia can’t ignore consequences seen in other states but says the state would be different.

“I think we’re a lot smarter than they are in Indiana,” Ralston said.

Gov. Nathan Deal weighed in with a warning.

“I don’t usually comment on pending legislation, but by far this is not finalized yet,” Deal said.

“I just believe the governor and lieutenant governor have worked so hard to make Georgia the No. 1 state in the country in which to do business. I just can’t believe we’re going to jeopardize that,” Pate said.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s office because the religious freedom bill passed out of the state Senate where he presides. There has been no response from his office.

The bill is headed over to the House for consideration.

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Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce opposes religious exemption bills

February 22, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article at CBS 46

DECATUR, GA (CBS46) –

A fight is festering pitting some in the religious community against the Metro-Atlanta business community.

The issue: should pastors be able to refuse to marry same sex couples?

If the bills recently passed by the Georgia house and senate are worked out, it could be law.

But the metro-Atlanta chamber of commerce representing three thousand businesses is against the legislation stating this in a news release:

“The Metro Atlanta Chamber joins more than 300 businesses that have signed the Georgia Prospers pledge strongly promoting inclusion and fair treatment for all. Georgia has been ranked the No. 1 state in the nation for business, and this statewide coalition of companies large and small supporting Georgia Prospers is committed to ensuring that the solid reputation of our state remains intact. We greatly appreciate the engagement of Governor Deal, the thoughtful deliberation by Speaker Ralston and our legislators in ensuring a business climate that is positive for Georgia.”

Business owners like Chris Flores are upset with the legislation too.

“If things went in such a direction to where I felt like this legislation was hurting my business, I was not able to hire people I wanted to hire or gain the customer base that I wanted to gain from it, yeah, I would definitely consider moving my business,” Flores said.

The openly gay business owner of “ratio bakeshop” in Decatur doesn’t like what’s cooking in Georgia’s state Capitol building.

“Being a gay person and owning a business, it kind of gives you second thoughts about wanting to have your business in a state where you can be discriminated against, but yet you still have to pay the same taxes,” said Flores.

He isn’t the only upset business owner angry about legislation saying clergy cannot be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony in Georgia.

Kelvin Williams, the co-founder of 373-k telecom said he’s packing up and moving out.

“There are 2 reasons why we’re moving out, number one, it’s hard for us to attract talent because our staff is made up of people from all walks of life. And the second reason is we have a serious problem, giving our tax dollars, our corporate income dollars to a state that would even pass this type of legislation.”

But republican state Senator Tommie Williams is on the other side of the argument and wants the bill to become law.

“They just don’t want them to be out there talking about their religious belief which are that a man and a women should constitute marriage,” Williams said.

This is not a done deal.  More movement on the bill could come at the end of the month.

Copyright 2016 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Read more: http://www.cbs46.com/story/31285607/metro-atlanta-chamber-of-commerce-against-pastor-protection-bill#ixzz41HwFjCVV

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Business leaders speak out against religious freedom bill

February 22, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article at the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

A group of business leaders who oppose religious freedom legislation approved Friday by the Georgia Senate are stepping up their fight.

The Georgia Senate approved legislation that combined two religious freedom bills: the “Pastor Protection Act,” which would assure clergy they would not have to perform same-sex marriages; and the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which would allow religious nonprofits to deny services to same-sex marriages.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber gave a letter to every Georgia senator – stating that it had signed the Georgia Prospers pledge, an initiative led by former Republic Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance. The letter says the organization has more than 300 Georgia-based companies that have signed on.

Mary Moore, founder and CEO of Cook’s Warehouse, said the religious freedom legislation could become “a big problem” for Georgia’s economic future.

“If this moves forward, it will be a huge step backwards for Atlanta,” Moore said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “We will become a national poster child for discrimination.”

Click here for more at SaportaReport.com.

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Georgia Business Leaders: Don’t Pass Bill that Could Bruise Georgia’s Brand

February 22, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full piece at Metro Atlanta CEO

By Ronnie Chance
The United States is the world’s greatest experiment in democracy. Americans have shown for more than 200 years that religious pluralism, freedom of speech and respect for diversity can not only coexist with economic prosperity but can also actively aid in its expansion.

Georgia figured out the formula well before its Deep South neighbors. Atlanta’s reputation as “The City Too Busy to Hate” spurred economic and population growth that left our neighbors behind. In time, Georgia became “The State Too Busy to Hate.” It has boomed into the eighth-largest state and is now home to 20 Fortune 500 and 33 Fortune 1000 companies and thousands more job creators, big and small.

Georgia Prospers, a coalition of more than 300 businesses dedicated to promoting non-discrimination policies and equal treatment for all, follows in that tradition. We believe that treating all Georgians and visitors fairly is essential to maintaining Georgia’s strong brand as the premier home for talented workers, growing businesses, entrepreneurial innovation, and a thriving travel and tourism industry.

The importance of an inclusive climate goes far beyond corporate boardrooms. Our economic growth is crucial to all Georgia families, our neighborhoods, our schools, our roads and our houses of worship. We’ve gotten ahead by presenting a welcome mat to the world – and the world has responded well to that Southern hospitality.

That graciousness is what you’d expect from Georgians, who by a significant majority are people of faith. We hold our faith traditions dear and they shape our values, which in turn shape our communities. As Americans we enjoy the highest protections possible when it comes to practicing our religion and speaking our views in the public domain. Those are our founding principles. They are sacred. Each generation of Americans has worked through the gray areas of how to balance the will of the majority with protections for the minority.

Georgia now faces such a debate as the General Assembly considers the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow some businesses and nonprofits to ignore any law that conflicts with its religious beliefs about marriage.

While proponents see it as reaffirming the First Amendment, many others see it as a license to discriminate against certain groups of Americans.

In other states, similar laws cloaked in the rhetoric of religious freedom caused immediate and severe backlash. Last year, Indiana suffered weeks of negative national media coverage that led to major industry groups canceling conventions in Indianapolis and businesses stating they would not add jobs in the state, damaging the Hoosier brand the people of Indiana take so seriously.

Indiana quickly backtracked and amended the law with nondiscrimination language to make clear the new law could not be used to discriminate against certain classes of people. The national umbrage ended, but the bruise on the Hoosier State’s image still lingers.

No one in Georgia wants to go through what Indiana experienced. It is a little-known fact that Georgia state law offers no nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. In other words, this bill will take Georgia law from a “see-no-evil” approach to discrimination to tacit approval. That could prove devastating for our reputation as a great place to do business.

We can renew our image as the gateway to the Southeast, the leader that’s still “The State Too Busy to Hate.” We don’t have to choose between our faiths and economic growth that benefits us all. We can have our peach and eat it too.

Ronnie Chance, a former state senate Republican keader, is director of Georgia Prospers.

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Governor says changes in works on religious exemptions bill

February 22, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the full article from the Associated Press.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s governor indicated Monday that changes are coming to a bill allowing faith-based organizations to refuse service to gay couples without repercussion.

Supporters say it’s intended to prevent religious adoption agencies, schools and other organizations from losing licenses, state grants, or other government benefits for their religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.

The state’s business community continued to marshal opposition to the proposal, wary of the type of economic backlash Indiana experienced following 2015 passage of a broader “religious freedom” law. At an event touting the state’s booming film and television industry, Gov. Nathan Deal said his office is working with legislative leaders and declined to say whether he supports the Senate-approved version.

“It is not finalized yet,” the Republican said, prompting applause from representatives of the film and television industry gathered in the Capitol.

The measure as approved by the Senate allows individuals and faith-based organizations to decline service to couples based on religious beliefs about marriage. Senate leaders added that language, originally from a separate Senate bill, to a House bill allowing religious officials to decline performing gay marriages.

Opponents warn that the changes to the bill also could extend the legal protection to businesses with faith-based mission statements.

House Speaker David Ralston, the chamber’s top Republican, confirmed Deal’s office is working with General Assembly leaders and said lawmakers shouldn’t ignore concerns from top Georgia companies or “the consequences other states have experienced.”

“I think that should counsel us to move deliberately and carefully and thoroughly on this issue,” he said. “It’s a very emotional issue; it’s an issue that’s going to have consequences.”

Supporters of the Senate changes, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, said it was intended to protect faith-based organizations that provide social services from going out of business because of their opposition to gay marriage. They also noted that the bill protects any view of legal marriage, including same-sex unions effectively legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision.

In a statement this weekend, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board J. Robert White asked House members to accept the Senate’s version.

“All Georgia citizens, organizations and businesses need protection from adverse legislation that would infringe upon their religious beliefs regarding marriage, defined in the Bible as the union of one man and one woman,” White said. “It is wrong to accuse persons of discrimination who live and conduct their businesses according to their deeply held religious beliefs.”

The bill, approved Friday by the Senate and sent back to the House, has roiled the state’s business community and prompted a pushback this weekend.

Business leaders warned in opinion pieces submitted to newspapers and other publications that the proposal could cause an economic backlash comparable to what Indiana experienced after passage of a broader “religious freedom” law in 2015 and jeopardize efforts to bring major events, including the Super Bowl, to Georgia.

More than 300 companies have signed onto Georgia Prospers, a coalition announced earlier this year to oppose any legislation that could damage the state’s brand. Members include top employers AT&T, Coca Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot and UPS.

“We are standing up for the principles of inclusion and fair treatment for every Georgia citizen and every visitor to Georgia,” Joe Folz, vice president of Porsche Cars North America said Monday. “Legislation that promotes – or even appears to allow – discrimination against certain classes of people hurts Georgia’s hard-earned reputation.”

Brian Tolleson, founder of entertainment firm Bark Bark with around 20 employees at its Georgia branch, said that damage could include the film and television industry drawn to the state in recent years by an aggressive tax credit.

“We’re building a world-class infrastructure and the most sophisticated facilities,” Tolleson said. “It would be a real shame to see that demolished because of a bill intended to do one thing that actually did another.”

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Georgia Prospers to promote state’s inclusion, tolerance

January 6, 2016 by admin

More than 100 businesses throughout the state today united to announce the formation of Georgia Prospers, a coalition dedicated to the principle of nondiscrimination as a key to building and maintaining an economically competitive state.

“Georgia’s economy is expanding, and with our commitment to an excellent business climate, we are poised for tremendous growth,” said Ronnie Chance, a former state Senate majority leader who is heading this effort. “When Georgia businesses prosper, Georgia families prosper, so we all have a stake in bolstering the image of our state and existing businesses to attract the diverse, skilled workforce that is crucial to future success.”

Dave Stockert, CEO of Post Properties, said Georgia Prospers simply builds on the qualities for which Georgians are already known.

“Part of what makes our business climate so appealing is Southern hospitality,” Stockert said. “Georgia Prospers wants the world to know this is a welcoming state. When people feel welcome, they feel at home and more likely to want to live here, more likely to invest here, more likely to open a business here. Georgia’s hospitality is genuine and isn’t just market-driven, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a market driver.”

“First Data prides itself on being a workplace free from discrimination whether it is based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. We know that it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for business,” said Cindy Armine-Klein, Executive Vice President and leader of UNITY, First Data’s LGBT Employee Resource Group. “As a leading Atlanta-based company, First Data is proud to stand with Georgia Prospers.”

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