Across America, there are more than 250,000 service members who are making the transition out of our military and looking to start their own businesses. These veterans possess unique skills, experience, leadership and drive that make them ideally suited to start businesses and create jobs in their communities.
We know veterans over-index in entrepreneurship. Today, there are about 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses, and they employ nearly 6 million individuals.
In the private-sector workforce, veterans are more likely than those who have no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.
At the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Seattle 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, the SBA supported more than $1.8 billion in lending to more than 3,000 veteran-owned small businesses. And, as part of our partnership with the lending community, the SBA worked with our top national, regional and community lenders to collectively increase their lending activity to veterans by 5 percent per year for the next five years through the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative.
The SBA also offers special assistance for small businesses owned by or those that employ 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 the SBA’s Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program when an active duty call-up results in a financial hardship for the business.
Research shows that small businesses that receive counseling see increased sales and longevity and have hired more workers. The SBA supports a nationwide network of veteran business opportunity centers, which, along with the SBA’s other resource partners, provide business counseling and training.
In 2013, with our resource partner network, the SBA has helped train and counsel more than 107,000 veteran business owners to date.
Veteran-owned small businesses won more than $12.2 billion in federal contracting business in fiscal year 2012. And for the first time, the federal government exceeded the 3 percent goal to contract with service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
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 who have a passion for and an interest in either starting a new small business or growing an existing one.
Our nation’s veterans have helped reshape the American economy. At the SBA, we know that, with the right tools and opportunities, veterans can continue to build our economy for the long-term, and the Seattle district office is here to help.Calvin W. Goings is a regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, call 206-553-7310.