Monday, December 10, 2012

Advocacy main reason for LRA existence, key to mission

There’s this saying by the Louisiana Restaurant Association President/CEO and recovering restaurateur Stan Harris about the government and your business that is worthy of sharing with you here: “While you think you aren’t involved with government, if you are licensed, permitted or regulated, government and politics are in you, whether you like it or not.”

LRA President/CEO Stan Harris advocates on behalf of
Louisiana's restaurant industry with elected officials
every day. However, he strongly encourages restaurateurs
to build relationships with their elected officials
and share their experiences of running a business and
creators of jobs for an even greater impact.  
Last week, the LRA weighed in on behalf of the restaurant industry on the swift push through of the Orleans Parish Water Rate Increase – a whopping 114 percent in eight years.

Although, the Council voted 5-2 to pass the enormous increases and we were unsuccessful in putting them off any further, we made our voice heard loud and clear. There is no doubt the Sewerage and Water Board has mandates from the EPA that must be met. How the additional and current infrastructure funds are used is important to the ratepayers.

The thing about politics is it doesn’t always come down to the issue at hand. The relationships with an elected official, preferably established well in advance of an issue, greatly come into play. Politics is all about negotiation, coalition building, reciprocal support and honesty.  And over time, we build credibility.

As a restaurant owner, keeping your council members, legislators and even your congressional members informed about what is important to you, how many people you employ and how much it costs you to keep your doors open is an ongoing process, not a one-off when the need arises. We must position our industry as a job creator and job provider, a purchaser of goods and services, who cycles money through the local economy.

By joining the LRA, your dues and contribution to the Hospitality Political Action Committee allows us to maintain relationships with elected officials year round. We use these relationships to assist you as a restaurant owner to find clarification on a particular issue you may have. On behalf of the entire industry, we are your watchdogs for onerous policies that require changes or proposed laws that would put the restaurant industry into a vice grip of more regulations.

Harris also likes to refer to our member’s misperception that it is the LRA’s job is to “put the genie back into the lamp.” It is so much more effective when we use our collective efforts proactively on an issue. As elected officials know that we are in fact paid to advocate on behalf of the restaurant industry, but when we able for an LRA member to present an issue or request (an “ask” in the political realm) to an elected official, it carries far more impact. We can provide the talking points or expert back-up to help present the ask.

But you, as an owner, have the power to influence them directly and drill down the numbers of our industry’s economic impact and as the state’s largest private sector employer, in a way that we that makes it difficult for them to ignore. When you tell your story, its real, it’s true and it’s effective.

Every elected official has member restaurants in their district. When you develop these personal relationships with your elected officials you want them to consider when an issue arises, “How will this affect Peter at Such & Such Restaurant?” Telling the story of our industry and raising its image as an industry of opportunity is something that all of us need to do every day!

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