Each year, more than 250,000 service members transition out of our military. These veterans possess the unique skills, experience, leadership ability and drive that make them ideally suited to start businesses and create jobs in their communities.
Today, there are some 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses, and these firms employ nearly 6 million individuals. And in the private-sector workforce, veterans are more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.
At the U.S. Small Business Administration, we are committed to ensuring that our nation's veterans have access to the capital, counseling and federal contracting opportunities they need to start, build and grow successful small businesses.
In fiscal year 2013, the SBA supported more than $1.8 billion in lending to over 3,000 veteran-owned small businesses. In Western New York, the SBA backed 39 loans to veteran-owned businesses totaling $7.2 million. This was a 22 percent increase over the number of loans and an 18 percent increase over the dollar volume that the region's veterans received in the prior year.
Also in 2013, the SBA worked with top national, regional and community lenders to collectively increase their lending activity to veterans by 5 percent a year for the next five years through the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative.
The SBA also offers special assistance for small businesses owned by or employing activated reserve and National Guard members. For example, military reservist business owners and companies that employ a military reservist in a key position may qualify for the SBA's Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program when an active duty call-up results in a financial hardship on the business.
SBA Administrator Jeanne Hulit recently announced new measures to help get small business loans into the hands of veterans by setting the borrower upfront fee to zero for all veteran loans authorized under the SBA Express program up to $350,000. This initiative will start on Jan. 1 and continue through the end of the fiscal year.
Of all SBA loans that go to veterans, 73 percent are $350,000 or less. The SBA Express Loan program, which supports loans under $350,000, is SBA's most popular loan delivery method, with nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being authorized through the program. Since the program's inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran borrowers.
We also provide counseling for small businesses as they look to take their business to the next level. Research shows that small businesses with a counselor see increased sales and longevity and have hired more workers. The SBA supports a nationwide network of Veteran Business Opportunity Centers, which, along with the SBA's other resource partners, provide business counseling and training. To date this year, with our resource partner network, SBA has helped train and counsel more than 107,000 veteran business owners.
SBA also connects veteran-owned small businesses with another important source of funding-federal contracts. Veteran-owned small businesses won more than $12.2 billion in federal contracting business in fiscal year 2012. And for the first time, the federal government exceeded the 3 percent goal to contract with service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
The SBA's Buffalo District continues to work day in and day out to reach out to and connect with veterans in our communities to make sure they are aware of the SBA tools and resources that can help them start and grow a business.
After World War II, our nation's veterans helped reshape the American economy-contributing to one of the longest periods of economic growth in our country's history. At the SBA, we know that with the right tools and opportunities, our nation's veterans can continue to build our economy for the long-term.
For more information, contact the SBA Buffalo District Office at (716) 551-4301.
Bernard J. Paprocki is acting administrator for Region II of the U.S. Small Business Administration, covering New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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