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Struggling small businesses a whopper of a topic for Johnson during Belpre visit

Matt Herridge and Grant Wharton, franchisees of the Burger King in Belpre, sit with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, on Friday to discuss the challenges of small businesses. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

BELPRE — Small business issues were discussed Friday as U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, sat down with Burger King franchisees in Belpre.

Franchisees Matt Herridge and Grant Wharton described to Johnson some of the challenges they are facing as business owners.

“I’m talking to business owners and people like these two gentlemen, who are franchise owners, with all the challenges that they’ve got, not only with availability of raw materials for their products that they’re selling to customers, but the cost of those that are going up because of inflation,” Johnson said. “And the cost of utilities that’s going up because of inflation.”

He said a big challenge is with the workforce.

“You can’t get people to come back to work because there is such an incentive at the federal level for them not to come back to work,” Johnson said. “So, there are lots of very real challenges.”

He said small businesses in the U.S. create over 60 percent of the jobs.

“It used to be that a franchise like Burger King is where high school kids get their start,” he said. “It’s where they learn life skills to go to college and go into manufacturing or engineering.”

He noted his first public job, other than the U.S. Air Force, was at a Pizza Hut.

Johnson’s visit was part of a national “DC to BK” program.

“We’re having a national event this week where we’ve asked representatives from across the country to come out to their local Burger Kings and talk with us about some of the challenges small businesses are facing,” Herridge said. “I’m currently serving as the chairman for the Government Relations Committee for Burger King and we have a group of 12 on our committee that we’ve kind of set this up.”

He said they’ve called local representatives and asked them to meet.

“Congressman Johnson’s been kind enough to do that,” he said.

They met at the Belpre Burger King as it’s the newest restaurant for the franchisees.

“It’s really our investment back into the community. We thought this would be a good stop,” Herridge said.

Johnson said they are experiencing both sides of the inflation. He explained inflation comes from two sources.

“You’ve got the supply side of inflation. When you’ve got supply chains that are disrupted, like we have under COVID, you can’t get products shipped in,” Johnson said. “Then you’ve got the demand side of inflation, where you have high demand for a particular product because it’s what everyone wants.”

He said the fast food industry in America is “motherhood and apple pie in this country.”

“People are busy with families and so there’s a high demand, but yet the businesses are struggling because of the supply chain problem of meeting that demand,” he said. “So you’ve got that collision of inflation and it’s getting tough and it’s going to get worse.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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