Every day is Veterans Day at the Small Business Administration (SBA). Each year, the agency salutes tens of thousands of the nation's veterans by supporting them through entrepreneurial training and mentoring, access to capital and business development opportunities through government contracts.
Veterans are a natural constituency for the SBA, the agency says. Nearly 10 percent of small businesses nationwide are owned by veterans. Collectively, these businesses employ almost 6 million Americans and generate more than $1 trillion in receipts. In addition, veterans are 45 percent more likely than those without active-duty military experience to be self-employed.
Many of the SBA support programs are designed to capitalize on the leadership and management skills veterans acquire during their service. This year, for example, the SBA partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to develop a national entrepreneurship training program for transitioning service members.
Called Operation Boots to Business, the program was piloted with all four branches of the services this summer and fall and will be rolled out nationally next year to provide exposure to entrepreneurship training to all 250,000 service members who transition into civilian life each year.
This year, the SBA also helped pump more than $4 billion into the nation's small business economy by backing more than 3,200 loans for 2,800 veteran-owned small businesses through its flagship 7(a) and 504 loan programs, including $118 million through the Patriot Express Loan program.
The Patriot Express Loans 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. The loans can be used for most business purposes, including startup, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory or business-occupied real-estate purchases.
This year also marked the fifth consecutive year of increases in the contracts made available to veteran-owned small businesses through the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Procurement Program, jumping 2.65 percent to $11.2 billion in fiscal year 2011.
"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."