As the nation marks Veterans Day 2012, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to build on its successful programs for America’s military veterans, helping tens of thousands of veterans each year with small business financing, comprehensive business training and counseling and access to federal contracts.
“Around Veterans Day, our thoughts turn to the men and women who are currently serving in the Armed Forces, as well as to all veterans who have made sacrifices and served our country over the years,” said SBA administrator Karen Mills. “When you consider the leadership and management skills our veterans develop while on active and reserve duty, it’s no wonder we see so many of them choose the path of small business ownership.”
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, veterans are successful small business owners. Nearly one in 10 small businesses nationwide are veteran-owned. Collectively, these 2.4 million small businesses employ almost 6 million Americans and generate more than $1 trillion in receipts. In the private sector workforce, veterans are 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.
SBA supports veteran business owners through entrepreneurial training and mentoring, access to capital, and business development opportunities through government contracts.
This year SBA partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to develop a national entrepreneurship training program for transitioning service members as part of the new Transition Assistance Program. Operation Boots to Business: From Service to Startup was piloted with all four branches of the services in summer and fall 2012. The Boots to Business program will be rolled out during 2013, providing exposure to entrepreneurship training to all 250,000 service members who transition from active duty to civilian life each year.
In a closely related effort, SBA and Syracuse University continue to expand the success of the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities program. The growing partnership between SBA and Syracuse University, now in its fourth year, provides training on how disabled vets can start and grow small businesses, with programs targeted to service-disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family caregivers, women veterans, and National Guard and Reserve members and their families. Since 2009, the first year SBA partnered with Syracuse University, 434 service-disabled veterans have participated in the program. Participating schools include: Syracuse University, University of Connecticut, UCLA, Florida State University, Texas A&M University, Purdue University, Louisiana State University and Cornell University.
SBA is also providing $2.6 million through a cooperative agreement over three years for two programs; Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), focusing on training, networking and mentorship for women veterans, and Operation Endure & Grow, targeting National Guard and Reserve component members, their families and partners.
Access to capital
In FY 2012, SBA backed more than 3,200 loans supporting nearly $2.1 billion in financing to more than 2,800 Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) through its flagship 7(a) and 504 loan programs, including $118 million through the Patriot Express Loan program. Patriot Express loans offer many advantages to veterans and to SBA’s network of participating lenders nationwide. They feature one of SBA’s fastest turnaround times for loan approval and an enhanced guaranty and interest rate on loans up to $500,000 to small businesses owned by veterans, reservists and their spouses. Patriot Express loans can be used for most business purposes, including startup, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases.
The Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program allows federal agencies to set acquisitions aside for exclusive competition among service-disabled veteran-owned small business concerns. Federal prime contracting dollars awarded to Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) increased for the fifth consecutive year to $11.2 billion, or 2.65 percent, in FY2011, up from $10.793 billion, or 2.50 percent, in FY2010.
Over the last year, SBA has created a series of online contracting courses called Government Contracting (GC) Classroom to help prospective and existing small businesses, including VOSBs and SDVOSBs, understand the basics about contracting with federal agencies. In addition, the Office of Veteran’s Business Development provides procurement training to SDVOSBs to help them take advantage of federal contracting opportunities under the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program.
SBA reaches out to veterans through its 68 SBA district offices, 15 Veterans Business Outreach Centers nationwide, more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers, 110 Women’s Business Centers and some 12,000 SCORE volunteers, more than 40 percent of whom are veterans. SBA also has numerous programs creating government contracting opportunities for VOSBs.