Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan sees a lot of optimism over the U.S. economy following the election of President Donald Trump. But at a Charlotte World Affairs Council lunch Wednesday, he said North Carolina continues to lose out because of House Bill 2, the 2016 law that limits protections for LGBT people.
Moynihan said surveys of consumers and businesses after the election show high expectations for the new administration.
“When you go see clients, having been around the country, they are very enthusiastic. They believe regulation will be less, the opportunity will be higher, growth will be better,” Moynihan said.
Speaking at the Hilton in uptown Charlotte, he said businesses are looking to Trump to cut taxes and eliminate federal regulations. And they want to see strong demand for their products.
“Those things all seem to be in the right place, and you don't see that changing at all. There's a lot of talk about well is that waning. It isn't at all,” he said.
He said one potential concern is Trump's position on global trade. The president has talked about ending or renegotiating global trade agreements. But Moynihan thinks the new administration eventually will fall into an overall approach that favors international trade.
“I just always believe there's a centralizing impact of policy over time. As it plays out, it tends to drive people to the momentum of the business system, the momentum of the capitalist system, and the momentum of the policy system, which tends to be more pro-trade than not,” Moynihan said.
Bank of America’s own economists are predicting 2 percent economic growth in the U.S. this year (2017) – about where it was in the last few months of 2016.
As for North Carolina, Moynihan told the crowd he thinks last year's controversial House Bill 2 is still hurting the state's economy. The big concerns, he said, aren’t lost events and corporate relocations already announced, but those we 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 that - there's a lot of 'em out here - just took you off the list because they just didn't want to be bothered with the controversy? That's what eats you up,” Moynihan said.
That doesn't mean North Carolina's economic engine is grinding to a halt. Moynihan said the state's economy has good momentum but behind the scenes the situation is deteriorating.