Site Will Serve as Regional Hub to Empower Veterans Through Entrepreneurship, Small Business Ownership
Photo by John T. Consoli
To kick off National Veterans Small Business Week, the University of Maryland today hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Mid-Atlantic Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), which will support aspiring veteran entrepreneurs and the small businesses they own while serving as a regional epicenter for training, consulting and technical assistance.
UMD President Darryll J. Pines, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman gathered with veteran business owners and other guests at the center’s future site in UMD’s Discovery District to celebrate the center, made possible through a five-year, $2 million SBA grant.
“It’s personally gratifying for me as president of Maryland’s flagship university that this new VBOC center will assist veteran small business owners not only in Maryland, but in the District of Columbia, as well as in Pennsylvania and in Delaware,” Pines said. “As a leading research and educational institution, the University of Maryland strives to serve diverse communities in its mission to provide excellent teaching, research and service.”
Led by UMD Chief Innovation Officer Julie Lenzer, the center will collaborate with the SBA and other partners—like the Small Business Development Center, the nonprofit SCORE (formerly known as Service Corps of Retired Executives) and Women’s Business Center networks—to facilitate business opportunities for not only mid-Atlantic veterans, but also active-duty personnel, reservists, National Guard members, and military spouses and survivors.
UMD anticipates that the veteran-owned small businesses and jobs that the center supports will boost local, state and regional economies: A 2017 SBA report found 237,655 veteran-owned businesses and a total veteran population of 2,077,810 across the mid-Atlantic, demonstrating the center’s potential reach.
“(Veterans are) one of the communities that have the core skills to be entrepreneurial—that grit, that determination, the resilience, the bravery,” Guzman said.
The center, which will occupy space donated by Terp-co-founded online security trainer Cybrary, also plans to work with UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Maryland Small Business Development Center to collect and analyze economic data from the veteran businesses who tap into VBOC’s resources.
But besides the economic impacts, Pines noted, the university also expects the center to benefit veterans through engagement activities, advocacy events and peer mentorship programs, adding to services already provided by UMD’s Veterans Center.
Today’s grand opening—part of National Veterans Small Business Week—represents one achievement amid a larger effort to strengthen the nation’s military families through entrepreneurship.
“The Biden administration realizes we have a commitment to equality and equity in our community. … That’s why these programs become so vitally important, so that we can unleash the great talent that we have here in America,” said Cardin, chair of the Senate Small Business Committee. “Today is a major step to help our veteran community, but we’re going to continue to work together.”
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