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Punch Pizza CEO is Michelle Obama's State of Union guest

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The chief executive and co-owner of Minnesota-based Punch Pizza was recognized at the State of the Union address Tuesday.  John Soranno was a guest of Michelle Obama's.

        Punch Neapolitan Pizza, a chain of eight restaurants in the Twin Cities, announced in November that it would increase wages to a minimum of $10 per hour for entry level workers. Soranno and his co-owner, John Puckett, say they raised their minimum wage to invest in employees, keeping them competitive.

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Puckett told MPR News' Tom Crann that the company has avoided the policy debate surrounding the raising of the minimum wage. The White House invitation stirred some discussion.

"We make about half our pizzas for Republicans and half for Democrats, so we really want as best as we can not get involved with the policy," Puckett said adding that as far as raising the minimum wage for Punch employees, "that's the right thing."

Puckett said the wage increase will cost the company $3 million over 10 years. 

        Soranno says he's honored to be recognized by President Barack Obama. 

        He was joined by kitchen worker Nick Chute, who started working at Punch Pizza as a cashier to pay for college, and now has a degree in philosophy. Chute says the raise makes him feel like a bigger part of the company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.