ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau says it just found out that a May convention scheduled to take place in Atlanta will be moved to another state if Governor Nathan Deal has not vetoed a religious freedom bill by Friday.

The announcement came during an ACVB executive committee meeting Tuesday morning, according to Heather Kirksey, a spokeswoman for the ACVB.

More News

Next Story

Not Available

Just For You

Not Available

Trending

Not Available

Kirksey would not identify the company or its size. She said the convention is currently scheduled in Atlanta in May. The Friday deadline, she said, allows the company enough time to relocate its convention, if need be.

The Georgia legislature passed a religious freedom bill last week, and an outcry immediately arose from the state's business community, which complained that businesses would view the bill as discriminatory against the LGBT community. Gov. Nathan Deal has not said if he would sign the measure.

At least 15 additional corporations, so far, are saying they may move their convention business out of Atlanta, according to the ACVB, which would cost the city’s economy billions of dollars in revenue.

The reason is the same, they say -- the possibility that the governor may sign into law the controversial “religious liberty” bill.

The governor has already said he is weeks away from deciding whether to sign it or veto it, and may not announce his decision until May -- too late for the company that has to decide by Friday where to hold its May convention.

“They’re on a very short window, and they need to find another city in which to take their business,” said ACVB President and CEO William Pate. "We know the governor has said he's not going to consider this [bill] until April, and so we fully expect that piece of business is going to be our first casualty… It’s about a $10 Million to $15 Million piece of business… a very significant piece of business for the city.”

So, Pate said, the mere possibility that the bill might become law is already hurting the Georgia economy.

Pate said the 15 additional companies, so far, that have announced they may also move their conventions out of Atlanta over the next five years account for up to 40 percent of the city’s convention business, costing the city’s economy up to $6 Billion a year.

Do you think the Religious Freedom Bill would hurt Georgia tourism? Vote below (or click here)

{"author_name":"11Alive","author_url":"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/","provider_url":"https://www.facebook.com","provider_name":"Facebook","success":true,"height":null,"html":"&#lt;div id=\"fb-root\"&#gt;&#lt;/div&#gt;\n&#lt;script&#gt;(function(d, s, id) {\n var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];\n if (d.getElementById(id)) return;\n js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;\n js.src = \"//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3\";\n fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);\n}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));&#lt;/script&#gt;&#lt;div class=\"fb-post\" data-href=\"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/posts/10153392908885496\" data-width=\"552\"&#gt;&#lt;div class=\"fb-xfbml-parse-ignore\"&#gt;&#lt;blockquote cite=\"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/posts/10153392908885496\"&#gt;&#lt;p&#gt;Discover Atlanta (Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau) says one group is threatening to cancel a May trip unless Gov....&#lt;/p&#gt;Posted by &#lt;a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/\"&#gt;11Alive&#lt;/a&#gt; on &#lt;a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/posts/10153392908885496\"&#gt;Tuesday, March 22, 2016&#lt;/a&#gt;&#lt;/blockquote&#gt;&#lt;/div&#gt;&#lt;/div&#gt;","type":"rich","version":"1.0","url":"https://www.facebook.com/11Alive/posts/10153392908885496","width":552}

But one of the bill's backers, Sen. Greg Kirk, (R ) Americus, insists companies will still want to meet in Georgia and locate in Georgia.

"I'll say this, Georgia's the Number One place to do business,” Sen. Kirk said Tuesday. “That has not changed. This bill does not change that one bit…. This is the best bill to protect everyone in Georgia…. It preserves freedoms."

Companies that hold conventions in Atlanta, Pate said, perceive the bill is controversial, and that’s enough to scare them away from Georgia, regardless of the bill’s actual language.

“We’re often competing with a half a dozen other cities – big cities that people like to go to,” Pate said. “And when you’re in that competitive environment, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’ve got something that could be a potential negative or distraction in that bid process. And so that’s why something like this, when you hear these sports organizations say they respect diversity and they consider that when they’re looking for places to hold their championships, that’s why we don’t need a distraction like this when we’re out there bidding.”

Pate said he is asking companies that are considering scratching Atlanta off of their list of convention cities to wait for the governor to act, one way or the other.

“What we’ve cautioned everybody is, let’s give the governor time. One thing we know about this governor is he’s very deliberate and he’s very factual, and he’s going to be looking for all the information he needs to make a good decision. I think the governor is going to do his due diligence, he’s going to be very deliberate as he looks at this issue. I do know that the governor has worked very hard to make Georgia the Number One state in the country in which to do business, and I just don’t believe he’s going to risk that."

Governor Deal's office is not commenting about any of this, emphasizing again on Tuesday that the governor will consider in April whether to sign it or veto it.

For updates on Georgia politics, including the Religious Freedom Bill, follow Doug Richards on Twitter and like his page on Facebook.