TalentServed CEO Meets with Congressional Leaders
Q & A with Steve Gibson on his spring visit to Capitol Hill
Why did you go?
If you asked me 11 years ago, when I started TalentServed, if I thought I’d end up on Capitol Hill advocating on behalf of my clients and the restaurant industry, I would’ve told you, ‘no way!’ I never saw myself as the “lobbying kind!” But, as our business has grown and we now serve clients coast-to-coast, it became evident to me that we need to advocate on a more national level. That’s why I chose to not only join the Board of the Georgia Restaurant Association; but, to also travel this year to the National Restaurant Association’s Annual Public Affairs Conference (April 17 & 18). I’m very focused on service and leadership to advance the hospitality industry. I recognize that our success is only as strong as our clients’ success.
Who was there?
Though the Conference was national with over two thousand people in attendance, I was there along with 8 others – including GRA leadership, restaurateurs and executives with major restaurant groups – to represent the state of Georgia. Collectively, we met with the offices of 16 different Georgia legislators from both the House and Senate, including Sen. Johnny Isakson, Sen. David Perdue and Rep. John Lewis, to name a few.
What did you do?
The National Restaurant Association set up meetings for us in advance with the legislators. We split off into two groups of six or so people to meet with each congressional leader and/or their staff for about 20 minutes. We were focused on discussing a handful of issues including immigration, health care, tax reform and others that directly impact the restaurant industry.
How did it go?
First and foremost, it was exciting to see how the democratic process works up close, as well as to be able to contribute and help advocate for the industry. I’d be remiss if I didn’t honestly say I was disappointed to see the resistance some legislative leaders had to take steps towards resolution due to political lines and protecting their own electability. For us, the issues we were there to discuss weren’t “red” or “blue;” but, truly bipartisan. They’re issues affecting every restaurant business in our state; and, even our country!
Most meetings were about presenting the issue and connecting directly to discuss solutions. In that way, most all of our meetings felt successful, where the legislator and/or their staff were welcoming and supportive. It wasn’t about initiating a vote; but, bringing greater perspective to the way these larger issues impact restaurants.
Among one of the bigger issues we discussed, Immigration Reform, we sensed that there was a real appetite for making a change to our country’s immigration policies. As it relates to the restaurant industry, over the next decade, restaurants nationwide will likely add 1.8 million positions or a 14% increase in workforce. And, sadly, that’s more jobs than the U.S.-born workforce can fill, according to the National Restaurant Association. So, supporting immigration reform that promotes skilled workers is essential for restaurants to create a viable workforce and contribute to economic growth. Among the congressional leaders, we heard that DACA can and will likely happen again.
Any other takeaways?
It’s clear to me that the real power of our presence in D.C. wasn’t necessarily in the individual offices of various legislators; but, in the thousands of leaders who attended the Conference representing every state. It’s true what they say about strength in numbers. Together we were a united front for the restaurant industry.
And, with our TalentServed Team across the country, we’re taking intentional steps every day to support our clients and the industry, beyond our day jobs. From Jennifer Bryant in Colorado serving as a Board Member of the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Mile High Chapter, to Richard Haake speaking as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, to YJ Ransdell, PHR, serving in the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, we’re choosing to be on the front line to help the industry be as successful as it can be. Together!