Helping our veterans start small businesses after their service
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When our nation’s military men and women return home after service, they not only deserve our gratitude, but often times need our help. Many who return do so with the dream of starting their own business. Not surprisingly, those who have served in the military already possess many of the same skills – such as leadership, discipline and fortitude - that make great entrepreneurs and business owners. Once they return, they just need the tools and resources to see their dream through.

As chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, I recognize how important it is to celebrate America’s veteran entrepreneurs and the contributions they have made to our economy. Each year, we do so during Veterans Small Business Week, particularly because the 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. hire more than 5 million employees.

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I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. Fitzpatrick12 House Republicans object to Alaska refuge oil drilling proposal Ads target House Republicans over tax reform Green group poll: Arctic refuge drilling unpopular in key GOP districts MORE’s (R-Pa.) H. Res. 588, which recognizes National Veterans Small Business Week. The resolution declares that veteran-owned businesses make up nearly 10 percent of all U.S. businesses, account for more than $1 trillion in business receipts each year. Further, veteran-owned businesses owned by women have increased significantly, from just under 100,000 in 2007 to almost 400,000 in 2012.

Even with these successes, we can still do more to help our nation’s heroes. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) coordinates the resources available to veterans starting their own businesses, including help with training, counseling and access to capital.

Although to some extent all small business owners deal with the same challenges, veteran-owned small businesses also face challenges that are unique to their background in military service. Created in 1999, the SBA OVBD’s mission has been to make more of their programs available for veterans, service-disabled veterans, reserve component members, and their dependents or survivors.”

For instance, each year the SBA provides management and technical help to more than 100,000 veterans through its entrepreneurship development resource partners. Resources such as Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBCOCs, serve as a one-stop shop for veterans who need help with growing a business, training, counseling or resource referrals. Other SBA-led resources available to veterans include Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

In addition to the training and counseling programs, the SBA OVBD is also responsible for ensuring that veteran-owned and service-disabled small businesses receive a fair amount of federal contracts.

In June 2017, the House Committee on Small Business held a roundtable discussion with government contracting experts, service-disabled veteran-owned small business owners, and stakeholder groups to discuss how to help veteran-owned small businesses with government contracting issues. Each year, the federal government has a statutory goal to award 3 percent of all prime contract dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The SBA exceeded the SSDVOSB goal of 3 percent and awarded approximately $17 billion in such contracts in 2016.

Although they are not run by the OVBD, SBA lending programs are also helping to make veterans looking to start or grow their business, particularly the flagship 7 (a) Loan Program. On May 17, 2017, the House Small Business committee held a hearing to review the SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program to make sure it is running efficiently and at a zero subsidy cost to the taxpayer. (It is operated with fees from lenders and applicants.) Noting the greater difficulty veterans have in obtaining affordable financing, I introduced H.R. 2499, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act to waive upfront fees for veterans applying for 7(a) express loans through SBA. My bill was signed into law in August 2015, making it just a little easier for these heroes to achieve their dreams.

Although there are abundant resources available for veteran-owned businesses, and no lack of veterans looking to start a business, the House Committee on Small Business will continue to continue to ensure the programs are running efficiently and effectively for our veteran-owned small businesses and their employees.

Chabot is chairman of the House Small Business Committee.