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There are millions of military veterans of working age in the United States, and much has been written about the difficulties they face when leaving military service and joining the civilian workforce. The job market can be difficult and saturated with candidates in the best of times, but veterans face the additional challenges of reintegrating into civilian society while building a career. Many of America's over 20 million working veterans have taken the step of starting their own business, and Mountainside Medical Equipment is proud to be among that number.
Businesses owned by veterans are more commonplace than many people think, and make up more than just a tiny fraction of the nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S. Veteran-owned small businesses, or VOSBs, contribute a great deal to our economy and society:
Veteran-owned businesses are found in a variety of industries, but it's notable how many are in challenging, competitive market segments. Nearly 30% of VOSBs are in two major groups: construction and professional, scientific, or technical services. Firms owned by veterans make up 13.2% of finance and insurance firms, as well as 12.1% of transportation and warehousing businesses and 11.4% of construction companies. And veteran-owned firms make up a larger share of high-patenting industries than they do in other industries.
A special class of VOSB is set aside for businesses owned by veterans who have a disability directly resulting from their military service. Businesses have to meet very specific qualifications to be designated as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, or SDVOSB. They have to qualify as a small business, have to be at least 51% controlled and owned by a service-disabled veteran, and a service-disabled veteran or caregiver must control the daily operations. Although only a segment of veteran-owned small businesses fit these provisions, around 8.3% of veteran owners have a service-related disability.
The federal government has affirmed that it has a moral duty to veterans to expand their business opportunities, particularly as regards granting government contract work. It has established a goal of awarding at least 3% of its federal contracting dollars each year to SDVOSBs. New York State in 2014 signed into law the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Act, which set a 6% goal for these businesses to receive state contracts. Acts like this allow small businesses to more easily compete for and win valuable state contracts.
Martin Zarnock Sr., founder of Mountainside Medical Equipment, served as a Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was drafted in 1968 and deployed shortly after, and during his service he discovered his passion for helping others by assisting injured soldiers in need of medical attention. After being injured by metal shrapnel from a bomb that struck near where he was stationed, he assisted in resupply in the medical tent, an experience that taught him the value of ready access to effective and necessary medical supplies.
Marty Sr. was honorably discharged in 1970, but still lives with health problems today as a result of his time in Vietnam. Exposure to chemical agents caused him to develop Type II diabetes and respiratory issues. These experiences affirmed his commitment to providing medical services and supplies to those in need, as well as his responsibility to support and advocate for other veterans.
Like Mountainside Medical Equipment, many veteran-owned businesses are built on a strong sense of purpose and awareness of common needs. And many of the owners have years of experience, both in their industry and in the military, as well as the leadership skills that come with it. Veterans contribute to our country even after their years of service, and there are ways you can help them at home.
Buy from a veteran-owned business: Online databases will help you find them nearby in all categories. You can combine helping local small businesses with helping veterans!
Hire a veteran: If you own or manage a business or work in a Human Resources department, you can help unemployed veterans directly by hiring them. The job market's tough, but veterans face unique challenges.
Share your skills and knowledge: Help veterans find resources and programs to assist them in opening and maintaining businesses. If you have experience in a relevant position or industry category, consider mentoring prospective business owners yourself!
Spread the word: Help advertise veteran-owned businesses on social media, or if you have a business, find a VOSB with a related service to partner with.
Assistance for veterans, whether medical or economic, is not nearly as robust or all-encompassing as anyone would hope. Those who have supported and protected our nation deserve that same kind of support and protection from us. Take some time to find the veteran-owned businesses in your area and give them your patronage.