Montana invites PayPal after firm spurns North Carolina

by Bobby Caina Calvan – Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials sought to capitalize on North Carolina’s loss and announced Wednesday that they would be courting PayPal to open an operations center.

In a letter, Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester commended the online payment company for its decision to drop plans to invest $3.6 million in a center in North Carolina because a new state law restricts protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Bullock and Tester invited PayPal to consider bringing the center and its 400 jobs to Montana.

“Unlike North Carolina, we believe that an inclusive business environment creates a strong business environment,” the joint statement said.

Bullock spokesman Tim Crowe said state officials were prepared to discuss financial incentives involving a possible move.

“There are a few state-funded programs that could be used to incentivize such an investment by them in Montana,” Crowe said.

The state could provide as much as $5 million in funding, including as much as $3 million from the Big Sky Trust Fund, which provides grants of $7,500 per job created, he said.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has invited PayPal to expand in his state. In a statement issued Tuesday, Shumlin said he had written PayPal, pointing out Vermont’s “history of non-discrimination” and burgeoning high-tech industry.

The company said Wednesday that it will begin a search for a new location that will include consideration of what is best for PayPal, its customers and its employees. The company did not elaborate.

The company previously said its decision to pull out of North Carolina reflected its belief that all people should be treated equally.

The controversy over LGBT protections erupted last month when North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed into law a measure barring Charlotte, the state’s largest city, from enacting an anti-discrimination ordinance.

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, another Republican, signed a “religious freedom” bill that allows people, religious groups and businesses to refuse service based on religious belief or moral convictions.

Montana does not have a nondiscrimination law protecting people who are gay, lesbian or transgender, but Bozeman, Butte, Helena and Missoula have such local laws in place.

In January, Bullock signed an order prohibiting discrimination against state employees and contractors because of sexual orientation or gender identity.