More states decide to buy from veteran-owned businesses

As U.S. veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan and face unemployment, more states and local governments are allocating money to buy goods and services from veteran-owned businesses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Twenty-three states currently offer some type of preferential treatment for veterans' businesses. Veterans started lobbying for the benefit in 2009, and nine states have enacted the legislation since then.

Some states set an annual goal of 3 percent of all contracts for veteran-owned businesses. Others avoid establishing a target and instead encourage government agencies to increase contracts with veteran's businesses. And some plan to set aside 3 percent of state spending each year for such businesses.

The unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan grew from 11.1 percent in December 2010 to 13.1 percent in December 2011. Many veterans who couldn't find jobs decided to start their own businesses; there currently are about 3 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S.

Since 1999, the federal government has had a goal of awarding 3 percent of its contracts to veterans disabled in the line of duty. But veteran advocates believe state and local governments should be doing more and encourage programs that would allocate money to veterans' businesses.

There are some who oppose such programs. Advocates of free enterprise oppose the set-asides; advocates for minority-owned businesses fear including veterans in state preference programs could decrease opportunities for everyone else; and some states cite costs involved when ensuring the businesses truly are veteran-owned to avoid fraud.

But many believe it is the least that can be done for veterans.

"Veterans more than anyone else have really sacrificed for their country," says Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson (R-Hawaii), who has co-sponsored a bill that would set aside 3 percent of Hawaii's state spending for veteran's businesses. "If there was a group to give a preference for, there are few others that are as compelling."

The federal government awarded $10.8 billion in contracts to veteran-owned small businesses in fiscal year 2010.

Date : 1/16/2012