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National Restaurant Association - Industry's growth has big impact on economy, Sweeney tells RNC attendees

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Industry's growth has big impact on economy, Sweeney tells RNC attendees

As part of an ongoing campaign to educate politicians and policymakers on how the restaurant industry impacts the economy and U.S. workforce, executives from the National Restaurant Association this week participated in several events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Dawn Sweeney, the NRA's president and CEO, briefed the convention's Michigan delegation on the hospitality industry's importance to the U.S. economy at a breakfast meeting Aug. 28. Other speakers at the event included former Michigan Gov. John Engler and Michigan congressman Mike Rogers.

The event also featured a visit from Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, whom Sweeney introduced to the delegation following her remarks on the industry's critical role in growing jobs as the economy recovers. Christie delivered the keynote address at the convention on Aug. 28.

"When we talk about the restaurant industry, we're referring to more than just fullservice and quickservice restaurants," Sweeney told the group. "There are 970,000 restaurant or foodservice locations in the United States - everything from large chains to mom-and-pop operations, and we project that sales this year will be about $632 billion," a 3.5 percent increase over last year's sales, she said.

Sweeney, who added that 60 years ago Americans spent 25 percent of their disposable income on food prepared outside the home, said today that figure has risen to 48 percent.

The NRA chief also stated that restaurant industry job growth has outpaced national growth for 13 consecutive years. In the past year, she noted, restaurant jobs increased by 2.9 percent while national job growth rose just 1.4 percent.

"We employ nearly 13 million people," she said. "That's more than 9 percent of the nation's workforce. Job creation is always important, but never more so than during an economic recovery. You have to have a mechanism to get people back into the workforce and no industry can provide those opportunities like ours can."

Sweeney said the restaurant industry added 300,000 jobs during the last 12 months, "So clearly we are the type of industry that can grow jobs and opportunities and help address employment needs across this country."

Upon introducing Gov. Christie, who spoke positively about the restaurant industry, Sweeney said the New Jersey lawmaker, the first Republican there to win a statewide election in 12 years, is "a friend to small businesses and our colleagues at the New Jersey Restaurant Association are supportive and excited by his leadership in the state."

In addition to attending the Michigan delegation event, Sweeney also hosted a Toast to Tampa party, which as many as 400 people attended. The event was the NRA's way of highlighting hospitality's impact on Tampa, and to say thank you to the convention's host city. It was sponsored by the NRA, the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, and Tampa Bay & Company, the city's visitor and conventions bureau.

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