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BCC Veterans Conference Targets Business Growth
August 13, 2012 - Veterans continue coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a post-recession economy where finding a job remains difficult.
However, there are numerous agencies ready to help and among them is Brevard Community College’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
The center will hold its 12th Annual Veterans Conference on Sept. 19 at the King Center for the Performing Arts on BCC’s Melbourne Campus with a two-fold goal: Help veterans who own their own businesses grow their firms and lend a hand to other veterans who are interested in getting an enterprise off the ground.
The conference is one of the largest of its kind in Central Florida with about 80 companies and organizations participating, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Assistance Council and Veterans Business Outreach Center.
Representatives from NASA, Patrick Air Force Base, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Procurement Technical Assistance Center will also offer their expertise.
“This is an opportunity for veterans to learn how they can use the experience and knowledge they earned on active duty in today’s economy,” says Victoria Peake, the center’s director. “We need to create more opportunities for veterans to provide for themselves and their families as they re-enter the workforce and the conference is a way to accomplish it. We want to open their eyes to the possibilities and provide hope.”
The keynote speaker will be Michael Waldrop, president of Blue Cord Design and Construction, a disabled-veteran owned business. Waldrop was twice awarded the Bronze Star with Valor and is a recipient of the Purple Heart. He has built his company with the motto “run by veterans to employ veterans.”
The BCC conference comes at a time when unemployment among returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans remains high. It reached 9.5 percent in June, above the 8.3 percent national average. As a result, many veterans are returning to school using benefits from the new GI Bill. For instance, nearly 2,300 veterans have enrolled in courses at BCC during the past year.
Meanwhile, federal and private-sector programs aimed at helping veterans get jobs continue to expand, with the BCC conference one example of programs available on the local level.
For example, the VA recently announced it is helping veteran-owned small businesses by exceeding its own goal for purchasing goods and services from veteran- and disabled veteran-owned firms, according to the Army Times.
Furthermore, a series of federal grants also have been announced to encourage hiring veterans. More than 25,000 unemployed veterans, aged 35 to 60, have also signed up to take part in the first phase of a two-year job training program, the Veterans Reemployment Assistance Program, the Army Times said. That provides one year of monthly GI Bill benefits to those enrolled in education or vocational training programs that should qualify them at the end for a job in a high-demand skills.
“Our conference is one piece of a large, national mosaic geared to helping veterans have highly productive civilian lives,” says Peake. “We’re committed to doing everything we can to make that happen.”
The conference runs from 8 AM to 4 PM on Sept. 19. There’s a $60 registration fee, which includes breakfast, lunch and materials. Sponsors include Brevard Workforce, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Harris Corp., Lockheed Martin, Craig Technologies, IAP World Services, Florida MEP and Florida Today.