Veteran business owners in New York City deserve their fair shake

Veteran business owners in New York City deserve their fair shake

New York City voters show they favor a proposal for the city government to help businesses owned by veterans, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. This “Veterans Preference” is similar to the consideration provided to women- and minority-owned businesses. Men and women who volunteered to put their lives on hold while they served their country deserve at least as much consideration.

In the 100-point rating system the city uses for evaluating bidders, this legislation would give veteran-owned businesses four points, similar to the points given to women- and minority-owned businesses.

Gov. Cuomo recently signed legislation creating a similar program for veteran-owned businesses seeking New York State contracts.

Many of these veterans are working to overcome physical or psychological injury. By the very fact of their service, they demonstrated an ability to dedicate themselves to a larger purpose, to work as part of a team and to get the job done — all excellent qualities for a person doing business with our city.

Giving these business owners, our neighbors, and my brother and sister veterans some extra consideration is just part of a comprehensive campaign to help the 200,000-plus veterans in the five boroughs and the thousands of new veterans expected in the near future as the U.S. winds down our long engagement in Afghanistan and reduces the overall size of our military.

As George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”

New York City has a good track record, reaching back to the post-Civil War era, of providing veterans with opportunities to prosper and contribute to our city’s economy. Veterans have a proven record of entrepreneurial success, and for many veteran business owners, the ability to secure city contracts is a valued opportunity. The city also benefits from the training and experience veterans bring to the tasks.

Our own United War Veterans Recycling Program, in which we collect used clothing and household items, is a case in point, but I’ll tell you more about that in my next column.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners, New York City has the nation’s highest number of veteran-owned businesses, with 41,261. Los Angeles with 25,897 and Houston with 17,636 rounded out the top-three cities in the United States.

New York City’s veteran-owned businesses span a variety of sectors, including construction, transportation and warehousing, retail trade, and manufacturing — all of which are important and of great value to the city’s economy. If an attrition rate comparable to the contraction of veterans in New York City since 2007 is taken into account, the number of veteran-owned businesses is still considerable, and their economic contributions to city coffers still significant.

Clearly, based on the millions of dollars that are generated in the city economy by veteran-owned businesses, the entrepreneurial spirit of veterans is a sound investment. Supporting veteran-owned businesses is good business, benefiting not only veterans, but the city as well.

Veterans aren’t looking for handouts from the city, just a leg up, through the same level of support and commitment given disadvantaged communities such as women and minorities. For veterans, support from the city can enable them to achieve all their business goals. New York City’s leadership and its people must continue to remember our debt of honor and to help these entrepreneurial men and women pursue a path to living a successful post-military life.

Vincent McGowan is a Marine veteran of Vietnam, Founding President of the United War Veterans Council, and past Chairman of the New York City Veterans Advisory Board.