"Companies are moving to other places because they don't face an issue that they face here," he told a World Affairs Council of Charlotte luncheon last month. "What's going on that you don't know about? What convention decided to take you off the list? What location for a distribution facility took you off the list? What corporate headquarters consideration for a foreign company — there's a lot of them out there — just took you off the list because they just didn't want to be bothered with the controversy? That's what eats you up."
Other measures show the country's ninth most populous state has a healthy economy. By quarterly gross domestic product, the federal government said, North Carolina had the nation's 10th fastest-growing economy six months after the law passed. The vast majority of large companies with existing operations in the state - such as American Airlines, with its second-largest hub in Charlotte - made no public moves to financially penalize North Carolina.
Shortly after he signed the law, Republican then-Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement assuring residents it wouldn't affect North Carolina's status as "one of the top states to do business in the country."
HB2 supporters say its costs have been tiny compared with an economy estimated at more than $500 billion a year, roughly the size of Sweden's. They say they're willing to absorb those costs if the law prevents heterosexual predators posing as transgender people from entering private spaces to molest women and girls — acts the law's detractors say are imagined.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, one of the strongest supporters, accused news organizations of creating a false picture of economic upheaval. A global equestrian competition that's coming to North Carolina in 2018 despite HB2 is projected to have an economic impact bigger than the sporting events that have canceled, Forest said. The Swiss-based group behind the event estimated its spending poured about $250 million into the French region of Normandy the last time it was held — 2014. The organization said the figure came from a study by consulting and accounting firm Deloitte, but the Federation Equestre Internationale declined to release the report.
Forest declined a request for an interview based on AP's analysis.
"The effect is minimal to the state," Forest told Texas legislators considering a similar law. "Our economy is doing well. Don't be fooled by the media. This issue is not about the economy. This issue is about privacy, safety, and security in the most vulnerable places we go."
But AP's analysis shows the economy could be growing faster if not for projects that have already canceled.
Those include PayPal canceling a 400-job project in Charlotte, CoStar backing out of negotiations to bring 700-plus jobs to the same area, and Deutsche Bank scuttling a plan for 250 jobs in the Raleigh area. Other companies that backed out include Adidas, which is building its first U.S. sports shoe factory employing 160 near Atlanta rather than a High Point site, and Voxpro, which opted to hire hundreds of customer support workers in Athens, Georgia, rather than the Raleigh area.
"We couldn't set up operations in a state that was discriminating against LGBT" people, Dan Kiely, Voxpro founder and CEO, said in an interview.
All told, the state has missed out on more than 2,900 direct jobs that went elsewhere.
Supporters are hard-pressed to point to economic benefits from the law, said James Kleckley, of East Carolina University's business college.
"I don't know of any examples where somebody located here because of HB2," he said. "If you look at a law, whether or not you agree with it or don't agree with it, there are going to be positive effects and negative effects. Virtually everything we know about (HB2) are the negative effects. Even anecdotally I don't know any positive effects."
An analysis by the state Commerce Department shortly before HB2 was enacted shows state officials expected the PayPal expansion to contribute more than $200 million annually to North Carolina's gross domestic product — an overall measure of the economy. By the end of 2028, the state expected PayPal to have added $2.66 billion to the state economy.
The same analysis of the Deutsche Bank project estimated a total impact of about $543 million by the end of 2027. The economic model has been used for more than a decade — with some updates along the way — when the state offers major discretionary tax breaks to attract jobs.
State officials said they didn't run the same financial analysis for CoStar, Voxpro and Adidas, so losses attributed to them were calculated using payroll numbers and other figures from the companies or state documents.