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9:36 PM Sat, Nov. 17th

Veterans can enlist the aid of many business resources

Question: I am a veteran. Are there any resources that are specifically available to vets to start or improve a business?

Answer: If you're a veteran, or plan on leaving the service soon, you are most likely contemplating how you're going to earn a living. In today's crowded marketplace, this could be the ideal time to consider starting a small business, especially if you already have business or management experience, or acquired new skills and interests while serving our country.

Veterans already make up a sizeable portion of the nation's entrepreneurs. A 2004 study conducted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) found that 22 percent of veterans in the U.S. household population had either started or purchased a small business, or were considering doing so. And more than 60 percent of new veteran entrepreneurs planned to operate their ventures (at least initially) from home.

Along with innumerable markets in which to apply your energy and interests, there are also many funding assistance programs designed specifically for veterans. For example, the SBA's Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative offers loans of up to $500,000 to help start or grow a small business via a nationwide network of participating lenders. Patriot Express loans feature the SBA's lowest business loan interest rates - generally 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent over prime, depending upon the loan's size and maturity - as well as a fast approval turnaround time. The loan can be used for most business purposes, including start-up, expansion, equipment purchases, working capital, inventory, or business-occupied real-estate purchases.

Another valuable source of information is www.vetbiz.gov, established by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veteran entrepreneurs with starting and expanding their businesses in the federal and private marketplace. The site also includes a database listing businesses more than 51-percent owned by veterans or service-connected disabled veterans - a valuable tool for promoting your new business to potential federal and private-sector customers.

Many SCORE chapters have established programs or outreach specifically for veterans, National Guard members, and military reservists. For example, SCORE has teamed with the National Guard to help soldiers, their families, and business partners accomplish business objectives at www.score.org/resources_veteran.html.

Bucks County, Pa., SCORE at www.score570.org/weather.html offers special services to assist returning soldiers and their spouses with starting a new business or reviving a current one. And SCORE Counselor Louis Celli Jr., who is also president of the Northeast Veterans Business Resource Center, provides a wealth of information for veteran-owned businesses at www.nevbrc.org.

The next session of SCORE's new, six-part Business Plan workshop series will begin July 9. Cost of the series is $90 for two participants from a single business. For more information or to pre-register, go to www.scorenaz.org or call the SCORE office at 778-7438.