Salute to Fairfax County’s veteran-owned businesses and the ecosystem that serves them

Is Fairfax County a smart place for someone to start a business after leaving military service? The numbers speak for themselves.

Fairfax County is home to 76,000 veterans. It also has the largest number of veteran-owned businesses in Virginia: 12,000 companies that employ 34,000 people, account for 11 percent of all county businesses, and racked up $6.7 billion in revenue in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners. These companies include successful ventures in the healthcare, government consulting, nonprofit, and technology sectors.

Also, seven of the top 10 companies on the Monster and Military.com 2019 list of best companies for veterans hail from Fairfax County: DynCorp International, Intelligent Waves, AMERICAN SYSTEMS, LMI, PRISM, IntelliDyne and AbleVets. Two other employers in the top 10 have a major presence here: CACI International and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

A large military and veteran population, proximity to the Pentagon and Washington, D.C., a robust ecosystem of supporting organizations and agencies, and regional economic stability are just a few of the  attributes that make Fairfax County a model area for veteran-owned businesses and vets transitioning to jobs after military life. 

This is National Veterans Small Business Week, and Monday marks Veterans Day, so today’s E-Bird Extra highlights notable business initiatives offered for Northern Virginia-based veterans and companies that want to hire them.

The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) at the Community Business Partnership in Springfield is an important part of the post-military business ecosystem. It is one of just 22 VBOCs in the nation and serves about 250-300 veterans a year in Northern Virginia and the national capital region, providing them with entrepreneurial development services. These services include training, counseling, and access to capital for members of the military community who may be considering starting a business or expanding an existing one. 

The core of this training is the Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot programs. Offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Boots to Business is a two-day entrepreneurial education initiative within the Department of Defense’s revised Transition Assistance Program taught on military installations worldwide. Reboot is an entrepreneurial workshop offered off installations, extending access to veterans of all eras, National Guard and Reserve, and military spouses.

“As a retired U.S. Army commissioned officer and a former business owner myself, I am pleased to use my experience to help veterans become successful in business,” said Leslie Taylor, the new director of the VBOC in Springfield. “Our organization is also dedicated to providing entrepreneurial vision and leadership for veterans as a way to help honor the sacrifices they have made through their service to our country.” 

Photo courtesy Virginia Values Veterans

Another program that brings together employers and businesses across Northern Virginia (and the rest of the Commonwealth) is the Virginia Values Veterans Program, also known as V3. Part of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, this program offers free training and certifications to existing companies to help them implement best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining highly-skilled and dependable veterans for their workforce.

Nearly 1,000 businesses are V3-certified, including scores across Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. Certified companies have reported hiring more than 51,000 employees through the program. Credence Management Solutions, located in Tysons, is one employer that has experienced success with V3. 

“Team Credence consists of an experienced group of professionals, many of whom have served in senior government, military, and industry positions,” said Sid Chowdhary, chairman and chief administrative officer at Credence. “Thirty-seven percent of our workforce are veterans or currently serving in the National Guard and Reserves. In the last 12 months alone, we are proud to have hired more than 180 veterans, and we are actively looking to grow that number by leveraging the V3 program.”

The Northern Virginia Technology Council, the largest tech-focused association in the nation, has run the Veterans Employment Initiative (VEI) since 2013. It connects veterans and military spouses to employment opportunities and provides support to member companies in their efforts to recruit, hire, train and retain qualified veteran and military spouse employees.

The VEI is driven by the Northern Virginia business and technology community in conjunction with the region’s academic institutions and policymakers. It also is supported through community partnerships and with the active assistance of committed volunteers. The VEI and its programs are funded by the NVTC Foundation.

Finally, the FCEDA, through its Business Diversity Division, works with veterans and veteran-owned businesses that want to expand in the county. The FCEDA’s Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County workshops are popular with veterans as well as other would-be entrepreneurs who want to know about local, state and federal resources for building a business in Fairfax County. The FCEDA also links clients with SCORE mentors who are experts in business planning.

“Northern Virginia has one of the largest concentrations of veterans and veteran-0wned businesses in the nation, and we are proud to serve this group that is an important and growing part of our economy,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the FCEDA.