Texas business leaders this week staked their opposition to proposed Republican bills in the upcoming Texas legislative session, fearing that their passage would potentially cost businesses in the state billions.
The two bills are widely perceived to be anti-LGBT, and, if passed would prevent transgendered individuals from selecting the restroom that aligns with their selected gender identity and would provide legal protections to individuals who objected to same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
The Texas Association of Business (TAB) identified in a recently released report that the passage and implementation of these two bills could cost the state between $964 million and $8.5 billion and nearly 200,000 jobs.
“The message from the Texas business community is loud and clear,” Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business, said at a news conference announcing the release of the report. “Protecting Texas from billions of dollars in losses is simple: Don’t pass unnecessary laws that discriminate against Texans and our visitors.”
Projected hits and losses
The economic impact study was conducted by researchers from St. Edward’s University and projected the loss of business based primarily on a loss of tourism to the state, and the ability to host prestigious events, such as the upcoming Super Bowl in February 2017 in Houston.
The projections were based, in part, to the fallout that other states, such as North Carolina and Indiana, with similar laws have seen.
North Carolina, in particular, has borne the brunt of the economic impact resulting from similar laws. . Major sporting events, such as multiple NCAA championship events and the NBA All-Star Game, have cancelled and moved to other states.
A growing number of companies, such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank declined to move forward with previously announced plans to expand in the state, costing the economy 650 jobs.
The rift between the TAB and state Republican leaders in the legislature is rare; while their interests seldom diverge, on this topic the gulf appears to be fixed between the two organizations. However, there is not uniformity within the Republican Party on the topic.
The state’s top Republican leaders, starting with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, have indicated their dedication to filing the bills, in the form of Senate Bill 6, and fighting for their passage in the upcoming legislative session.
“TAB has a track record of partnering with liberal anti-traditional family groups, opposing religious freedom and supporting ordinances that prosecute citizens for believing in traditional marriage,” wrote Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), in a recent blog post on the topic at the Texas Tribune decrying the results of the study.
“TAB recently claimed that the Texas economy would lose billions of dollars unless Texas buckled to political correctness and sacrificed the safety and privacy of women. However, a considerable portion of the lost dollars TAB references are in the idea that Houston would lose the opportunity to host the Super Bowl — a specious claim considering the game is only two months away.
Speaker of the House Joe Straus has gone on record as saying that Patrick’s agenda isn’t “the most urgent concern of mine.”
TAB’s report garnered support from both sides of the aisle, but most notably from Republicans who align with Straus.
“Texas needs to continue to strive for excellence in education, infrastructure, and health,” said State Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston), a supporter of TAB’s position.
“Those priorities – not divisive issues that won’t move our state forward – deserve our time and attention. We need to protect our tourism industry, attract investment, and provide a healthy environment for small businesses to thrive. I stand with the business community in their commitment to safeguarding the economic health of the Lone Star State.”
However, the populace may be more inclined to agree with Patrick’s camp. In a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, surveyed voters, and voters which identified as Republican in particular, identified that they aligned more closely with the socially conservative voices, with 51 percent of respondents and 76 percent among self-identified Republicans stating that they felt that individuals should be required to use the restrooms that aligned with their gender at birth.
“Keep Texas Open for Business”
The association moved beyond the mere release of their report in an attempt to forestall the passage of the bills, creating their “Keep Texas Open for Business” initiative. While the effort has not yet seen a large number of businesses join the campaign, those that have include such industry leaders as Apple, IBM, and Intel.
The aim of the initiative is focused solely on defeating bills that would, in the purview of TAB, be discriminatory against the LGBTQ population in Texas.
“Discriminatory legislation is bad for business. Our economic study points to the dire and far-reaching impact of discriminatory legislation on Texas businesses, our communities, families, jobs and the larger state economy,” said Chris Wallace, President of the Texas Association of Business (TAB). “We must Keep Texas Open for Business. We cannot slam the door on the Texas Miracle of openness, competitiveness, economic opportunity and innovation.”
Read the study for yourself
Texans know that anything may happen in a legislative session and that original forms of bills filed rarely look the same upon their passage, if they reach the governor’s desk.
The polarizing positions taken by each side seem to allow little room for compromise; the TAB predicts a catastrophic loss of business and tourism to the state should the bills pass, in any form, whereas the socially conservative Republicans hold dear to the tenet that allowing transgendered individuals to use the restroom of their choice would lead to an unsafe environment for citizens of the state and that the prediction that business and tourism will collapse is a canard.
Ultimately, with the whirlwind of the Texas legislative session upon us, a wait-and-see approach is the only one that both sides can take with clarity.
The complete economic impact study is available online at http://KeepTXOpen.org/Study.
Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time
(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.
Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.
But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.
In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”
This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.
HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.
Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.
As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.
HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.
They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.
Las Vegas’ largest dispensary gets massive Infinity Wall expansion
(BUSINESS NEWS) Las Vegas’s largest dispensary is getting a big, expensive makeover, thriving while other brick-and-mortar shops are struggling.
Have you ever heard of an Infinity Wall? If I were you, I’d check it out right now because it’s utterly mesmerizing.
An 80-foot version of this wall is just one of the new features that Planet 13 (or The Company) announced it will be implementing in Las Vegas’ largest dispensary, The SuperStore, this past Monday. In addition to the futuristic entertainment feature (I honestly can’t get over that thing), they will be doubling the sales floor and expanding the dispensary to ~23,000 sq. ft. For reference, the entire Planet 13 SuperStore complex is 112,000 sq.ft.
Why expand an already massive dispensary during a pandemic, when most brick and mortar stores are suffering? Well, according to Larry Scheffler, Co-CEO of Planet 13, The Superstore is actually thriving beyond belief.
“We are achieving record sales even with Las Vegas at ~50% tourist occupancy. As Las Vegas returns to normal and this industry continues to grow, we anticipate that this will be first of many expansions we will undertake to keep up with demand.”
The expansion adds 40 points of sale to uphold the outstanding customer service reputation Planet 13 has. If you do have to wait, you have a state-of-the-art entertainment system to enjoy. It’s win-win for any and all visitors.
The CapEx cost of the expansion between is $1.5 – $2.5 million. The project is expected come to completion by the end of Q1 2021.
Las Vegas has become a sort of cannabis mecca. After all, it’s home to MJBizCon, the industry’s largest networking event attended by thousands from around the world. And the popularity and overall acceptance makes it an easy choice for any cannabis aficionados. The SuperStore, like most things in Las Vegas, is huge, glamorous, and caters to tourists.
I have no doubt that when the city bounces back from the pandemic, this new-and-improved dispensary will be a must-visit destination.
The future of work from home will be a hybrid, says Google CEO
(BUSINESS NEWS) Google is looking to adapt a more flexible, long-term hybrid work model for their employees, which includes partially working from home and partially being on-site.
Google, the world’s largest search engine company (yes I know they do other things), is positing that the corporate office will look completely different post-COVID-19.
In September Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai said that the organization was making changes to its offices that would better support employees in the future. This includes “reconfiguring” office spaces to accommodate “on-sites”, days when employees who regularly work from home will come into the workplace. The move comes after Google was one of the first major tech companies to announce that employees could possibly work from home through next summer.
“I see the future as definitely being more flexible,” Pichai said during a video interview for Time 100, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”
It was reported that Google’s decision to work remotely into mid-2021 was originally in part to help employees whose children might be learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Pichai said that several factors went into the decision, stating that improving productivity was a major concern.
“Early on as this started, I realized it was going to be a period of tremendous uncertainty, so we wanted to lean in and give certainty where we could,” Pichai said. “The reason we made the decision to do work from home until mid of next year is we realized people were trying hard to plan… and it was affecting productivity.”
Pichai also mentioned that the decision would help the firm embrace the reality that remote working wasn’t going anywhere once things returned to normal. A recent survey at Google found that 62% of employees felt they only need to be in the office on occasion, while 20% felt they didn’t need to be in the office whatsoever. While the work from home trend had already been growing over the past several years, the pandemic accelerated that movement greatly.
With housing costs surging in the San Francisco area, where Google headquarters resides, many employees have been forced to move outside of the city to afford a mortgage. This caused many to commute long hours into the office, something Pichai realized was a problem.
“It’s always made me wonder, when I see people commuting two hours and away from their families and friends, on a Friday, you realize they can’t have plans,” Pichai said. “So I think we can do better.”
It’s too early to tell whether or not Pichai’s vision of a “hybrid model” will be adopted by other companies when the pandemic ends. One thing is for certain though—work will never be what is pre-COVID-19.
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