President Bush discusses small business issues with attendees at the Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago. With him on stage are Steve Anderson, seated furthest left, president of the National Restaurant Association, and Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House and a congressman from Illinois.
CHICAGO - Among the 75,000 persons in attendance at the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) 87th annual Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show was a person who admitted he and his wife "don't eat out as much as we used to." But President George Bush used an address at the expo to touch upon issues of interest to owners of food service businesses that could well extend to HVACR contractors, who also play a part in restaurant customer comfort and food product safety.

Those issues included "immigration reform, tax reform, and small business health care plans," noted Steven Anderson, NRA president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased that President Bush chose this show to speak about these important issues that are impacting our nation and our industry."

The president said the restaurant industry "plays a vital role in our economy" by employing more than 12.5 million people in 925,000 restaurants.

He added, "You are the largest employer of immigrants. And you know how essential it is that we have an immigration system that is safe, orderly, and fair."

From there, Bush launched into immigration issues relevant at the time of his speech in late May including increasing border patrol agents, a temporary ‘guest workers' program, verifying documents and worker eligibility, and resolution of the legal status of persons from outside the United States, who have been in the country "for quite a while."

"The reforms I proposed regarding guest workers are really important for your industry," Bush said. "Your association estimates that restaurants will need 1.9 million new workers over the next 10 years, which means if you need workers, your need for workers will be growing faster than the American labor force."

In a Q&A session, the president was asked about tax cuts for small businesses. He said he was "absolutely committed to making the tax cuts permanent. It is important for Congress to understand that when there is any uncertainty in the tax code it will make it less likely someone is willing to invest in a small business and expand their businesses."

On the specific aspect of small business health care, the president promoted what he called health savings accounts. "These are unique products that enable a small business owner and/or individual to be able to purchase a catastrophic plan coupled with a tax-free savings account. That's important because it means that you are in control of your account."

Publication date: 07/03/2006