The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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READ: Why a CEO Refuses to Do Business in Antigay Jacksonville

READ: Why a CEO Refuses to Do Business in Antigay Jacksonville

It was in August when the Jacksonville City Council shot down an antidiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBT residents. Repercussions of that decision are now reverberating, as a local attorney says a major corporation refused to move to Jacksonville because of the measure's failure.

Marianna Smith is a lawyer and board member at an unidentified company. She writes in the The Florida Times-Union that the CEO of the company she serves on the board of refused to relocate to Jacksonville after the council rejected the ordinance (click here for a closer look at the measure's failure). The CEO was also affected by antigay letters and op-eds that appeared in local newspapers. Here's what Smith wrote:

"To build a business, you need more than just land; you need a favorable environment for employees.

Let me tell you a story.

I am a member of the board of directors of a rapidly growing, multi-million dollar international company. We employ chemists and engineers, marketers/sales staff plus a full manufacturing and distribution facility.

The company is located in a landlocked city and wishes to move to a city with a port, rail and truck service.

I have strongly advocated Jacksonville as our future business home. Unfortunately, the CEO came to evaluate Jacksonville when the letters and comments of hate were in our paper opposing the proposed changes to the Jacksonville anti-discrimination ordinance.

The CEO was shocked and said any determination about Jacksonville would not occur until after the bill was voted on by the City Council.

I sent articles from city leaders supporting the bill, but that was not enough. The CEO has determined this community will not be a good a fit for our company.

Jacksonville lost this company because of the results of the anti-discrimination bill vote.

I have served as a director on other international boards, and I can promise you that those companies would also decline Jacksonville as a headquarters home in view of the way our council and some citizens responded to a call for equal rights.

This is not the result of unforeseen consequences. No, this result is highly foreseeable.

When religious beliefs and convictions are infused into the responsibility of creating public policy, the resulting sad consequences are totally predictable. Where was strong, wise and meaningful leadership when we needed it?

If I ever questioned the wisdom of separation of church and state, that doubt has been completely erased by this event. I am saddened to have my home city of Jacksonville defined in this manner.

My company is now investigating Savannah, Charleston and the ports in Virginia." —Marianna S. Smith, attorney, Jacksonville

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