Two local business owners were part of a statewide press conference call Monday talking about how a "bathroom bill" could impact them.
Amber Briggle, owner of Soma Massage Therapy, and Jason Bodor, co-founder and senior director of business services at GSATi, were on the call organized by Texas Competes. The organization has unified almost 1,400 businesses in the state who oppose legislation about who can use which bathrooms.
The call came after the state's Senate Committee on State Affairs passed the so-called "bathroom bill", Senate Bill 3, on Friday. The bill in its current form would apply to public buildings, including schools, that have restrooms, showers and changing areas for multiple people and would require the rooms to be "designated for and used only by persons of the same sex as stated on a person's birth certificate."
But the implications of the bill also impact business. GSATi, a web app development company with 27 employees, has plans to expand. Leadership is worried about recruiting top talent for new positions, since Texas is perceived as discriminatory. Plus, the company has clients in states that could limit their travel for meetings in Texas, Bodor said.
"If Texas continues down the path of leading the country in discrimination against LGBT people, we know our talent pipeline will slow," Bodor said in the conference call. "Additionally, we frequently have clients fly in for planning sessions and system discussions, and we have concerns about the willingness of our global clients to travel to Texas."
This issue hasn't come up quite yet, he said, but it's something GSATi is worried about.
"Sometimes we get comments from employees that 'we'll start here, but it's not our intent to stay in Texas'," he said. "Especially from discriminated minorities."
Briggle, who is also a vocal advocate for her 9-year-old transgender son Max, said she's put expansion plans on hold because of this bill.
With Denton's first hotel and convention center set to open this year, Briggle wanted to add staff and services specifically for conference attendees. Now that some conventions are trying to stay away from Texas, she isn't so sure.
"My business relies on a strong flow of visitors to Denton as part of our business model. People come here for work or for play, and they get massages," she said. "If I can't rely on tourism traffic — and all of the data and examples suggest that I can't rely on it, if we keep doing this bathroom thing — then I can't take the risk of investing in expanding my business."
According to Texas Competes, the state has lost $66 million worth of convention business because the bill is being discussed. If legislation is passed, Texas Competes estimates the state will lose another $205 million in conventions and up to $1.4 billion in total losses.
The full Senate is expected to take up the bill this week.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.