Karen Gordon Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, came to Fort Bragg, May 21, to announce a new resource to ensure that veteran entrepreneurs will have access to the capital needed to start and to grow successful businesses.
Called the Veteran Pledge Initiative, it will increase lending to veterans by five percent per year for the next five years.
About 120 top lenders have made the commitment, and the five percent increase will allow nearly a half-billion dollars in additional financing during that period, said Mills, who made the announcement before veterans, military and business leaders and servicemembers, many of whom participate in SBA’s Boots to Business program.
The B2B program is designed to teach entrepreneurial skills to transitioning servicemembers.
Pvt. Ronald Wilson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and a current enrollee in the B2B program, said the announcement would help him as he transitions from the Army.
“This is perfect for any Soldier whether you’ve been in 30 days or 15 years,” he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Hands, who is assigned to the 330th Transportation Battalion, agreed.
“It will help me once I open my lawn care business next year,” said Hands, who will separate from the Army in February 2014, after 21 years of service.
The Army Career and Alumni Program provides resources to enhance veterans’ opportunities for work through the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Fort Bragg’s deputy commanding general. Nearly 8,000 Soldiers retire from Fort Bragg or depart the service every year, and VOW helps those Soldiers to re-enter the civilian workforce.
John Mosier is senior vice president and a national SBA manager at KeyBank, one of many lenders who vowed to increase lending volume to Soldiers.
KeyBank will extend more favorable lending terms to veterans by offering longer-term loans that require lower monthly payments, he explained.
Through SBA’s partnership with the National Association of Development Companies VetLoan Advantage program, other financing discounts would include:
Waived processing fee of .5 percent, or $7,500 for loans under $1.5 million in the 504 program (provides financing for purchase of fixed assets like real estate)
Waived processing fee of .25 percent, or up to $12,500 for loans over $1.5 million in the 504 program
Waived loan origination fees for some rural development loans
Paid guaranty fee for up to $5,625 on some 7a loans (used to establish a new businesses)
Today, more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses employ more than six million people, Mills said.
The SBA will continue to be there as other servicemembers transition towards business ownership.
“We are going to be with you (veterans) every step of the way,” she said.
Fred Vollrath, assistant secretary of defense Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, agreed.
“This is big business,” Vollrath said. “Skilled, dedicated ... they (veterans) are everything you want in the business world.”