Economic prospects for veterans looking up

Mar 21, 2014

Military veterans bring a unique skill set when starting their own businesses, but they also face many of the same challenges as non-veteran entrepreneurs.

There are more than 900,000 vets in New York state and the unemployment rate among those who served in the last decade is consistently higher than state and national levels.

That rate did edge down last year, to 9.0 percent, according to the Labor Department, from 9.9 percent the year before. It's still higher than the national average of 6.7.

Job training programs and Work Opportunity Tax Credits are being used to get more veterans employed. But there are also efforts to help them start their own businesses.

Lee Buttolph is a Marine veteran who took over his father’s lumber business based in Phoenix. N.Y.

He says it takes a lot to run a business.

"Just being in the military is not enough to do it; it takes a lot of work. But what the military really prepares you for is the long, hard hours; the leadership that it takes," he said before being the keynote speaker at a Small Business Administration sponsored forum at Onondaga Community College on Thursday.

"It wasn't in my long range goals," said Kirk Badore, an Air Force veteran who owns a civil engineering firm near Albany, but "certainly military service has support it along the way and helped me along."

He said training and business mentorship programs were helpful in starting his own business.

The SBA says veterans often have a high success rate than other entrepreneurs. That has a lot to do with their discipline and drive. The SBA says the amount of money out there to help vets start a business has doubled in the last five years.

"It’s just really another skill set for them to say, hey I do have this trade, I do have this passion, I’m trained to do this type of skill. Why not apply it to my own business and work for myself. So it really gives them the opportunity to apply their skills and work when they need to or have to," said Amy Amoroso, a veterans' business advisor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promoted legislation to help disabled veterans during what was billed a "Veteran and Military Family Summit" also on Thursday.

The proposed legislation would set aside 6 percent of state contracts for small businesses owned by veterans disabled during their service. The federal government's goal for awarding contracts to veteran-owned businesses is 3 percent.

The legislation would also create a new office to promote the program.

New York is home to three major active duty military installations at Fort Drum, Fort Hamilton and West Point.