Statement of Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez before Committee hearing on Military Veteran Entrepreneurship
Honorable Nydia M. Velázquez, Ranking Member
House Committee on Small Business
“Military to Entrepreneurship: Private Sector Initiatives to Help Veterans Pursue Business Opportunities”
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
By developing new products, advancing research and creating new markets, entrepreneurs are an important force in our economy. Over the years, we have repeatedly seen the important role veterans play in this process. Due to their leadership, training, perseverance, knowledge of the government procurement process and other skills acquired in the military, veterans are often uniquely qualified to launch and manage their own businesses. In fact, in today’s private sector workforce, veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed -- compared to workers without active-duty military experience.
Currently, there are about 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses – about one in ten – that generate over $1 trillion in receipts. Clearly, for many men and women leaving the service, entrepreneurship provides a promising opportunity to continue serving their country, creating jobs in their local communities, while supporting their families. Despite the rich tradition of veterans owning small businesses, the veteran unemployment rate sits around 9 percent. For that reason, both public and private initiatives have been established to assist transitioning service members. Unfortunately, those initiatives often fail to develop veterans’ entrepreneurial goals.
Besides the Small Business Administration’s veteran focused programs, like the Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers and the Boots to Business program, the private sector has their own efforts to assist veterans. Many of these projects are multidimensional, offering everything from basic course on running a business to helping prospective entrepreneurs secure startup capital. At today’s hearing we will hear from several veteran entrepreneurs about their firsthand experiences with several of these programs. It is my hope they can highlight for us what they found beneficial, where improvements can be made and identify gaps in how these services reach veterans.
Assisting entrepreneurs will require integrated, comprehensive solutions that leverage a combination of government, nonprofit, and private efforts. Despite progress we’ve made, hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families continue to struggle, demonstrating how much more must be done. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that resources reach the veterans and service members these programs are meant to help. In that regard, as we examine private sector initiatives, we must consider ways they can complement government programs to maximize effectiveness.
I thank all the witnesses for being here today. Your testimony will help inform the Committee as we work toward the goal.