In 2004, the Federal Government created a new small business program for Veterans called the Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) program. This executive order stated that all federal departments shall spend 3% of their procurements on these Veteran business programs. Since then, nineteen states have followed this lead. The state of Florida is not one of them. However, Florida has the third largest Veteran population in the Country.
Less than one half of one percent of our population signed an oath to serve our Country in the Armed Forces. 3.6 million of these Veterans have service connected disabilities. Over three million service members have served in the Global War on Terror. Many of them face significant challenges coming home.
More than 2.4 million U.S. businesses are owned by Veterans, about nine percent of all American firms. 5,490 SDVOSB businesses are registered in the State of Florida with the US Department of Veteran Affairs. In 2015, the census counted 180,074 Veteran Owned Businesses in the State of Florida. Very few, if not any of them are being procured by our state, local municipalities and government agencies.
Since 2004, Fiscal Year 2012 was the first time the federal government spent the required 3% of prime contract dollars with VOB and SDVOSB’s. Central Florida needs to be on the cutting edge of this growing need, disparity and trend. The City of Orlando and Orange County Government have created their own small business programs for Veterans; however, they lack transparency and accountability compared to the other state adopted small business programs.
Billions of dollars are spent in the business community at our airports, schools, cities and counties. 24% of our tax dollars are committed to small business programs such as Minority Owned Businesses, Woman Owned businesses, Local Developing businesses and the like. Nothing is set aside for our Veteran entrepreneurs in our community. This must change. A minimum of 3-5% spending requirement should be set aside for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses as a start. An even higher percentage should be adopted for veteran Owned Businesses.
The future generations of our Veterans count on this type of support to continue on as leaders in their community. Our Veterans, Disabled Veterans and Wounded Warrior don’t want a handout. They just want a chance to compete. A chance to become the leaders they are in their communities. Aren’t veterans, who put their lives in harm’s way to protect the freedoms we all enjoy, worthy of those same advantages when it comes to local contracts?
It’s time that we as a state and a local community recognize the value of veteran business owners as successful entrepreneurs and also honor their sacrifice and service by affording our state’s veterans the same opportunities that exist for other groups. The State of Florida, local municipalities, and government agencies must immediately create similar small business programs for our Veteran business community as they do for others.
We believe that if you have served our country and done so honorably then there should be a real opportunity to start and grow your own business in the State of Florida. Our great state has the third largest Veteran population and yet it remains one of 31 states without Veteran Small Business programs.
The only way that will change is if we come together and support Veteran entrepreneurs. Whether they are starting off or well heeled, continue to serve by creating jobs and leverage the leadership, dedication, and skills our nation helped them develop for war to bring prosperity in local communities.