After PayPal Broke Up With North Carolina, the State Asked for Its Gifts Back

by | October 26, 2016

By Katherine Peralta

Over the last year, when companies announced plans to grow their footprints in North Carolina, state leaders have presented them with an unusual gift: An oak bowl carved from wood from the state capitol grounds.

So when PayPal unceremoniously canceled its plans for an expansion in Charlotte over opposition to House Bill 2, state officials did what any jilted ex might: Asked for their stuff back.

"We reached out to them and said, 'Give us the bowl back.' That is a North Carolina artifact from the North Carolina state capitol made by North Carolina artisans for companies that are coming into North Carolina," N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla told the Observer Monday during a visit to Charter Communications' training center in Matthews.

"We got it back, gave it to a charity auction, and they raised money that is for the benefit of the state capitol."

The origin of the bowls traces back to about a year ago, when an oak tree on the capitol grounds was struck by lightning. Crews were about to come chop up the tree and dispose it, but Skvarla called the governor's office to implore them to keep the pieces.

There were 340 such bowls made. Others have been given to CSX, which this summer announced plans to open a new intermodal terminal in Edgecombe County, and most recently Charter, which received its bowl Monday morning in recognition of its apprenticeship program, the largest in the state.

Skvarla said it took two calls to get the bowl back from San Jose, Calif.-based PayPal. The bowl was donated to a charity and auctioned off, he added. It's unclear who the bowl's new owner is.

"After the fact, I wish we'd given a different bowl to the auction, but they'd already auctioned it off. It dawned on me: That ought to be in a glass case somewhere. But somebody bought it, and it's something that has more value than I'm sure they paid."

"I would love to swap them."

PayPal first announced plans to open an operations center in Charlotte in March. The facility would have added at least 400 jobs.

Days after the passage of HB2, which limits legal protections for the LGBT community, PayPal canceled those plans. CEO Dan Schulman said the law "perpetuates discrimination, and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal's mission and culture." Staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.

(c)2016 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)