America’s restaurant operators are taking their record as leading job creators to Capitol Hill to highlight the integral role the restaurant industry plays in our nation’s economy and to advocate for pro-growth policies and legislation that would allow them to create even more jobs.

The meetings are part of the National Restaurant Association’s 26th annual Public Affairs Conference being held in Washington, D.C., this week, with more than 500 restaurateurs from 45 states in attendance.

This year’s conference theme, “America Works Here,” is part of the National Restaurant Association’s ongoing campaign that helps illustrate the industry’s story as a leading job creator to opinion leaders. America’s restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, providing nearly 13 million jobs, or one in 10 workers.

“Restaurants provide jobs in every state and every Congressional district,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association.

“Throughout the economic downturn, we have been one of the few industries that has continued growing. In fact, restaurants have added 560,000 jobs since the beginning of the employment recovery, with more than 200,000 of those positions created in the last six months. With the right policies, America’s restaurants will be able to create even more jobs and provide greater opportunities to more Americans.”

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) both echoed that message in their respective remarks to conference attendees.

“Growing up in the restaurant business and later running a small business, I learned firsthand that our economy runs on freedom and free enterprise,” Boehner says. 

“The House is focused on getting government out of the way so our economy can get back to creating jobs and opportunities. Restaurant owners and operators sit at the crossroads of our economy, and have a valuable role to play in speaking out for pro-growth economic policies.”

“America is built by small businesses with big ideas—ideas often forged over a cup of coffee or a slice of pie, served fresh at the restaurant down the street,” Klobuchar says. “These Minnesota businesses are great examples of the big ideas that have succeeded in creating innovative products and strengthening communities across the country.”

The Association’s conference also featured Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), a restaurateur, who pledged their support for the restaurant industry. 

In meetings with congressional members, restaurateurs will work to gather support for bipartisan legislation (S. 687 and H.R. 1265) for a permanent 15-year depreciation schedule for restaurant improvements and construction; encourage further reforms in the debit/credit card swipe-fee market; gather support for S.J. Res. 36 to block the National Labor Relations Board ambush-election rule; and urge modifications to the 2010 health care law, including the repeal of the employer mandate (S. 20 and H.R. 1744) and auto-enrollment mandate (H.R. 2206).

Also at this year’s public affairs conference, the Association unveiled its retooled grassroots program, America’s Restaurant Advocates. The industry-wide, interactive program helps restaurateurs engage with elected officials and restaurant colleagues on critical issues.

“This online community helps you make a difference on issues that affect the restaurant industry and your restaurant’s bottom line,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of political advocacy.

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