In reaction to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, the National Restaurant Association called for the advancement of several pro-growth policies to allow the restaurant industry — the nation's second-largest private-sector employer and creator of 230,000 net jobs in 2011 — to continue its position as a leading job producer and engine of economic success.

Topics of job growth, immigration reform and energy efficiency were of particular interest to the NRA.

The restaurant industry added 230,000 jobs in 2011, its strongest gain since 2006, and is expected to outpace the overall economy in job growth in 2012, according to Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

"Restaurants provide jobs in every state and every Congressional district. Throughout the economic downturn, we have been one of the few industries that has continued growing, providing quality jobs that lead to fulfilling careers in our industry and others," she said.

In a statement, the NRA responded favorably to President Obama's ideas for immigration reform. The NRA supports sensible, comprehensive reform that combines worksite enforcement and strong borders with workforce and immigration policies and a visa system that meets U.S. worksite demands.

"This is an issue that requires bipartisan solution, and although difficult, must continue to be a high priority for federal officials. The patchwork quilt of state regulations is increasingly difficult for business owners and operators to navigate," Sweeney said.

Specifically, the NRA calls for Congress to ensure that any mandatory E-Verify program is efficient and easy to use by all employers, and for businesses to be able to use the H-2B visa program without additional red tape.

The NRA also lauded the President's comments committing to energy efficiency, a "critical" issue for commercial, retail and manufacturing businesses that can return equal or more savings.

"As the national economy continues to slowly climb from the deepest downturn since the Great Depression, the U.S. restaurant industry also is on the road to recovery," Sweeney said. "The federal government should provide long-term certainty, such as depreciation schedules that give restaurant industry and retailers the certainty they need to help spur investment and construction."

Not touched upon in the NRA's response was President Obama's commentary about wage inequality, what he called the "defining issue of our time."

Read President Obama's full State of the Union speech here.

Read more about trends and statistics

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