Opinion piece by: Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
Across America, there are thousands of veterans and transitioning service members looking to start their own businesses. These men and women are proven leaders and we know that they make outstanding business leaders.
Each year, there are over 250,000 service members transitioning out of our military. These veterans possess the unique skills, experience, leadership and drive that make them ideally suited to start businesses and create jobs in their communities.
We know that veterans over-index in entrepreneurship. Today, there are approximately 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses and these businesses employ nearly 6 million individuals. And in the private sector workforce, veterans are more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.
At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the South Florida District, we are committed to ensuring that our nation’s veterans have access to the capital, counseling and federal contracting opportunities they need to start, build and grow successful small businesses.
In Fiscal Year 2013, SBA supported more than $1.8 billion in lending to over 3,000 veteran-owned small businesses. In the South Florida district, 82 loans totaling more than $27.3 million were made available to veteran-owned businesses. Also in 2013, as part of our partnership with the lending community, SBA worked with our top national, regional and community lenders to collectively increase their lending activity to veterans by five percent per year for the next five years through the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative.
SBA also offers special assistance for small businesses owned by or employing activated Reserve and National Guard members. For example, military reservist business owners and companies that employ a military reservist in a key position may qualify for SBA’s Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program when an active duty call-up results in a financial hardship on the business.
We also provide counseling for small businesses as they look to take their business to the next level. Research shows that small businesses with a counselor experience see increased sales and longevity and have hired more workers. SBA supports a nationwide network of Veteran Business Opportunity Centers which, along with SBA’s other resource partners, provide business counseling and training. In 2013, with our resource partner network, SBA has helped train and counsel more than 107,000 veteran business owners to date.
SBA also connects veteran-owned small businesses with another important source of funding--federal contracts. Veteran-owned small businesses won more than $12.2 billion in federal contracting business in FY 2012. And for the first time ever, the federal government exceeded the three percent goal to contract with Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses. In FY13, veteran owned businesses in South Florida district were awarded $808, 917,226 in contracts and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses were awarded $473,005,535 in contracts.
The South Florida district continues to work day in and day out to reach out to and connect with veterans in our communities to make sure they are aware of the SBA tools and resources that can help them start and grow a business.
We’ve improved our collaboration with veteran-focused partner organizations like Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR); local college and university “Veterans Support Centers”; the U.S. Chamber’s “Hiring Our Heroes” Program; State Department of Workforce Services “Veteran Representatives”; SBA Veteran Business Development Officers; and local military bases and posts.
We’ve also increased outreach via veteran-focused events and training programs, including Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, which provides focused business assistance to female veterans of all service areas and branches with a passion for and an interest in either starting a new small business or growing an existing one.
After World War II, our nation’s veterans helped reshape the American economy—contributing to one of the longest periods of economic growth in our country’s history. At the SBA, we know that with the right tools and opportunities, our nation’s veterans can continue to build our economy for the long-term; and SBA South Florida district office is here to help.
For more information, find us online at: www.sba.gov/southflorida.