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Des Moines metro business leaders worry legislative trends may drive away future employees

More than 60 total businesses across East Village and Valley Junction signed onto a joint letter to political leaders.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bills involving Iowa's LGBTQ community have been a hot topic at the statehouse this session.

And now, there's a new voice joining the discussion: business leaders believe what's happening in the statehouse may be impacting their future in the state. 

More than 40 East Village businesses signed onto a letter criticizing recent legislation as being anti-LGBTQ. Niki Hinton, owner of Hinton Consulting, organized the letter from those businesses. 

She worries the bills are making Iowa a less attractive place to work.

"I think we have to be really thoughtful about what this means long term, the message that we're sending to employees to potential employees," Hinton said.

But the frustration isn't just in East Village. 

Shortly following their letter, more than two dozen businesses in Valley Junction released their own statement, as well. 

Several small businesses in Ankeny echoed this sentiment, sending out a statement that reads in part: 

We need more businesses to speak up as we are already seeing people leave the state, a teacher shortage, and difficulty finding employees because of years of bad legislation coming out of the Iowa statehouse.

Felicia Coe, owner of Cirque Wonderland, was one of the owners who signed the statement. She feels like previous arguments, such as discussing the impact of the bills on Iowa's LGBTQ youth, have fallen on deaf ears.

"I don't feel like that's working. So I'm going to play on other ways that this is going to be really damaging to us. Economically, going forward, we are going to lose talent. We are going to lose young people. This is going to be a dying state," Coe said.

And two of those bills that business owners are protesting were scheduled for debate on Monday.

Senate File 482, which bans transgender people from bathrooms in elementary & middle schools that don't match their sex assigned at birth, and Senate File 538, which bans gender-affirming care for minors.

Both passed through the Senate and will now go to the Iowa House of Representatives. 

Coe said she works with Iowa children who would be impacted by those proposals, and her worries for them go much further than just her business' bottom line.

"We have real concerns over using losing our youth...having them rather not be here on earth and to be subjected to the things that they are being subjected to, to these ridiculous laws and rules," she said.

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