By: Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
Each year across America, there are over 250,000 service members transitioning out of our military. These veterans, who are proven leaders, possess the unique skills, experience 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. 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 its Kentucky District Office, 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 over $12.9 million in loans to 39 veteran-owned small businesses in Kentucky. 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 free counseling for small business owners as they plan to take their companies to the next level. Research shows that companies that access small business counseling services experience 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, including the SBDC, SCORE and Women’s Business Centers, provide training and free business counseling. In 2013 alone, with our resource partner network, SBA helped train and counsel more than 107,000 veteran business owners.
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.
The Kentucky District Office continues to work day in and day out to connect with veterans across the Commonwealth and ensure that they are aware of the SBA tools and resources that can help them start and grow a business.
We have 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, including Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell.
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 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 the SBA Kentucky District Office is here to help.
For more information, contact the Kentucky District Office at 502-582-5971 or go to www.sba.gov/ky.