Today, U.S. Representatives Yvette D. Clarke, Edolphus Towns, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Michael Grimm, Bob Turner, Gregory Meeks, Nydia Velázquez and Peter King, hosted a forum providing veteran-owned small businesses the resources they need to bolster their enterprises. Special guests include the American Legion and the United Veterans War Council, Inc. Panelists represented at the forum included the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Small Business Association (SBA); Department of Defense; The U.S. Department of Treasury; The American Legion; NYS Small Business Development Center; Academia; and the financial sector.
Rep. Clarke spoke to the important role veteran-owned small business play in turning our economy around stating, "As a Member of the House Small Business Committee, I understand that small businesses are the economic engines of our country. It is time that we protect and bolster our veteran --owned small businesses," she continued, "Unfortunately, our veterans are coming home to a job crisis. For this reason, it was an honor to host this forum with my colleagues, for veterans who want to start or grow a small business in New York City with the intent to hire veterans and create jobs through entrepreneurship, ushering the United States into a new age of prosperity."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of unemployed veterans was 7.4% in November 2011, far above the national average, and as more soldiers return from duty, these percentages could very well increase as veterans struggle to find employment in a languid job market. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 8.2% of working veterans are self-employed in 2010; a statistic reinforcing the absolute necessity of supporting veteran-owned small businesses as a mechanism for job growth.
Members of the New York City delegation expressed their committement to ensuring that our veteran-owned small businesses have the resources they need to prosper in New York City, as well as across the nation.
"Honoring our veterans requires more than just lip service -- it means providing economic opportunities. By helping veterans become entrepreneurs, we empower them to support themselves and their families," stated Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat of the House Small Business Committee.
"Our veterans risk everything to fight for our nation's security and it is incumbent upon both the government and our communities to ensure that they are successful when they return to civilian life," said Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY). "By helping veterans grow small businesses, we not only help the American economy but also get the opportunity to thank those who have fought and sacrificed for their country."
"Military service is the highest expression of patriotism," stated U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). "As with all Americans, I am thankful for the commitment and daily sacrifices our military makes to protect our country and defend our democracy. As members of Congress, we have a duty to address the needs of our men and women in uniform. In part because of their training and experience in the military, in part because of their energy, ideas, and enthusiasm -- and with a little help from the rest of us -- veterans can be very successful small business owners and entrepreneurs. Today's event will help equip them with many of the essential tools necessary to start or expand a business."
"Our military members and veterans are truly the best of America. As we emerge from the Great Recession, all too many veterans are having a difficult time finding jobs or expanding their businesses -- despite the skills and high degree of professionalism that former members of our military bring to the workplace. I thank my colleague and good friend Congresswoman Clarke for organizing today's forum and for her leadership in helping today's veterans become tomorrow's entrepreneurs," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
"It is unconscionable that veterans, who were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, are not afforded the very best in economic opportunities the greatest country in the world has to offer. America must provide access to entrepreneurship for those veterans who are willing to seek it. We have the resources. It is our responsibility as lawmakers to ensure every veteran's dream to become a small business owner, a reality," stated Congressman Edolphus Towns (D-NY).
Congresswoman Clarke was fervent in expressing her desire to support veterans stating, "... let us continue to honor the soldiers who risked their lives for us. Just as the military pledges to leave no soldier behind on the battlefield, we must not leave any veterans behind when they come home. Know that I and my colleagues hosting today, will continue to honor our veterans by supporting legislation that provides them with the benefits they deserve."