Each day across America veterans are returning home to cities like Louisville and are learning to remake themselves and their careers in the process. Despite the sluggish economy veterans are choosing to create new business startups and job opportunities in their communities. Organizations like the National Association for Black Veterans (NABVETS) are key in helping them achieve economic empowerment through education, employment and entrepreneurship.
NABVETS relationships with other organizations like Washington, DC based Vets Group, Inc., and corporations such as Walmart, Prudential, UPS and Humana allow them to focus specifically on small business development and employment. Additional support from the Department of Labor -VETS, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Development Centers, and the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers assure that the most current and relevant information and materials are made available via numerous workshops held throughout the country. NABVETS Kentucky State Command Council Commander, Shedrick J. Jones of Louisville, said the organization's collaboration with federal agencies and companies helps NABVETS get the word out to veterans about the various opportunities available and their strong military history in the Commonwealth.
A study released by the SBA Office of Advocacy on Entrepreneurship and Business Ownership in the Veteran Population showed that at least 22 percent of America's veterans are either purchasing, starting a new business, consider purchasing, considering or starting one.
Congressman John Yarmuth, 3rd Congressional District, believes the support given to veterans and organizations like NABVETS is well earned.
"The Veterans community offers a great breeding ground for small business owners and job creators. They have all the skills and attributes that are necessary. First of all they have the courage to take a risk, the discipline, the dedication, the commitment and leadership. These are the attributes that have been trained into our veterans. It's a better than average chance that a veteran who wants to go into business is going to be successful. So that's why programs put on by organizations like NABVETS and Vets Group, Inc., are so helpful."
This sentiment is further echoed by Metro Louisville 4th District Councilman David Tandy. "Supporting the work of NABVETS is a way of saying thank you to the veterans who happen to be people of color who have served our country and provide the blanket of freedom under which we rest each and every day.
It's important to support small businesses at every opportunity. It's important to make sure the resources are available; whether they are tax credits, tax incentives, or different funding mechanisms to provide that critical capital necessary to grow or to start a business so that more jobs can be created. We recognize that when you create two or three jobs and start to multiply that by the hundreds of small businesses out there, you start to see that those numbers have a tremendous impact on the local economy."
Area businesses also have a vested interest in working with veterans. Cindy Federico, Market Human Resources Manager for Walmart, says her company has made a commitment to help veterans. She adds, "Walmart has made a promise to its veteran associates and spouses that if they are reassigned to another part of the country, then we will guarantee them a position at a local store. Walmart values the experiences that any military personnel have in the service. They bring a set of skills to the table that many in the civilian population do not, that fact alone makes them a candidate that stands out for positions at Walmart."
Queen Jones, Vets Group, Inc., Director of Public Relations, said Vets Group, Inc President, Joe Wynn, exemplifies the passion and dedication of those serving the veteran community. He works tirelessly on behalf of veterans daily. "Aside from overseeing the non-profit training organization, Mr. Wynn oversees programs that match veterans with real opportunities and opens countless doors to create an environment for success."
Mr. Wynn says there are three key things veterans should be aware of when pursuing government contracts with VA or other government agencies: "First - they should know about the Veterans federal procurement program. Under that legislation public law 108 - 183 which came out in 2003, made it mandatory that federal agencies and large prime contractors procure a minimum of three percent of all their goods and services from service disabled veteran owned businesses. So, they definitely want to be aware of the legislation, regulations and guidelines that govern that program because that is an incentive to them.
Secondly, they should have knowledge of the federal acquisition regulations. Those that pertain to the small business sections of FAR Part 19, because understanding that can help them with regard to pursuing certain government contracts. Finally, be aware of the basic fundamentals; have a good sound business plan, a good business structure, know your capabilities and capacity. Don't try to use the shotgun approach. Narrow down your scope for specific contracts to just a few agencies. Keep in mind that the Department of Veterans Affairs has a special contracting authority for veteran business owners and service disabled veteran business owners; so be certain to register with the Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Small Business Veterans Data Base. These are the three most important things I recommend they focus on. I can't overstress the importance of fully understanding your capabilities. Failure to do so can ruin any chance of getting future contracts."
Billy Jenkins, U.S. SBA Veteran Procurement Liaison under the Office of Veterans Business Development, adds that veterans need to be mindful when entering the procurement process. "If you are a service disabled veteran or any small business you're required to unconditionally own and control 51% of your firm, and we're finding that in a lot of cases the veteran does not understand the regulations which allows them to be manipulated by individuals outside of the government. So that is key.
A lot of entrepreneurs show up and have the ability and capacity to do business, but, they are not aware of the roadmap that they must have in their hip pocket in order to accomplish that. The government system is a very complex system. So, I advise them to take the time to study the procedures and regulations before they show up. Understand that you have to speak a different language just as you do in the corporate environment. You have to be able to speak the language of the government employees, specifically the contracting official. Conferences like the one held by NABVETS connects veterans with one another as well as the services and benefits available to them."
According to Tommie Causey, U.S. Small Business Administration, Kentucky District Office, Surety Bonds is one area that business owners often overlook but is critical to their overall growth. "I believe Surety Bonds are important for anyone interested in growing their business. If you don't have bonds, your chances of getting a contract are slim to none. Particularly minority business owners; a lot of them have problems associated with bonding. The goal is for many of them to create jobs in some of the hardest economically hit communities throughout the country and help drive the recovery."