Military personnel returning to civilian life is rarely an easy transition. In today’s world, American GIs reentering the general population presents all sorts of hurdles and challenges.
Good then that some people are looking to ease that transition, to help out a veteran — a most deserving recipient.
A new loan program offers help to North Carolina veterans who want to become entrepreneurs, as they return home to a slow job market. According to a report released earlier this month, one in 10 veterans of post 9/11 combat find themselves unemployed, leaving many to consider the possibility of starting their own business.
Two years ago, Steve Gill was in their shoes. A veteran, he paid for his business piece by piece because getting a loan isn’t always easy for service men and women.
“There’s a larger number that have some really unique skills and experience,” said Gill. “They have everything available as far as knowing what they can do. It really comes down, a lot of times, to the funding.”
Starting this month, the Support Center, a community development financial institution, is offering loans to North Carolina veterans. Unlike traditional bank loans, equity is not required. Instead, the Center is looking for veterans with solid business plans.
Last year, 250,000 veterans returned home to North Carolina from active duty. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 25 percent of transitioning veterans want to start their own business.
Lenwood Long, president and CEO of the Support Center, said veterans often have an ideal skill set to start a business.
“They bring not only skills but a certain maturity level,” said Long. “This whole notion of self sufficiency … they don’t want to be dependent upon the VA. They want to own their own business. “
Long believes the help is especially needed in the current economic climate and with the large number of veterans expected home this year. Available loans via the Center range from $5,000 to $200,000. Currently, more than 80,000 businesses in North Carolina are veteran-owned.
In December 2012, USA Today reported on the unemployment levels of our transitioning military personnel. The story highlighted a new program being launched by the Pentagon.
The new initiative is designed to prepare service members for life after the military, even as they begin training and serving as combat troops — in the early days of their service.
The hope is to reduce the joblessness that has stubbornly plagued veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. In November 2012, about 10 percent of those veterans — or more than 200,000 former service members — were without work.
The new transition program and the loan program for NC veterans interested in business ventures are just some of the ways we can take care of the men and women who fought for us.