Something queer for the good has happened. All of a sudden the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB) has taken an interest in veterans’ entrepreneurship. It is ‘partnering’ with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer a seminar about entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans on 5 November at the Fowler Center in South Bethlehem (click on the flyer thumbnail below and to the right). Actually the SBA partner is Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center (together with Kutztown University’s, often hidden secret to veterans from the Lehigh Valley interested in starting a business).
Why is it strange? Because its parent organization, the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) has never put effort into helping veterans as a cohort after all the years of its existence. CACLV was established in 1965 as a non-profit organization targeting low-income persons in the Lehigh and Northampton County areas and its mission serves that group by attempting to improve the quality of life in the Lehigh Valley by building a community which all people have access to economic opportunity, the ability to pursue that opportunity, and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. It is a well-meant organization, but just not has been very active for veterans. It’s strange because the staff of its subsidiary, CADCB, have been working with the residents and merchants in southside Bethlehem to create sustainable economic development and community revitalization since 1998, but had never before approached the veterans community as a target group.
One might ask why the sudden interest.
Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the SBA announced earlier last year the SBA Veteran Pledge Initiative, a new commitment by its top national regional and community lenders to collectively increase their lending activity to veterans by five percent per year for the next five years. This initiative has the potential to boost the already $2.1 billion per year in lending support that various SBA programs provide to new and existing vet small business owners. There’s money to be had out there, but apparently veterans have not been been taking advantage of it.
The SBA has apparently had problems with its seven-year old Patriot Express Loans Program. For this year at least it had announced that it will waive its initial borrower fees for veterans who secure loans next year via the department’s Express Loan Program, through which the agency backs small-business loans of up to $350,000. Currently, the agency charges as much as 3 percent of the value of the loans. Things like this are done to encourage greater use.
According to the Washington post, the GAO late last year reported the SBA’s limited oversight means some program loans may not be reaching veterans. The agency has a poor track record in reviewing its pilot programs historically and, in this case, ensuring “loans are only made to eligible members of the military community.” The SBA is just one of those whipping boy, federal agencies, continually slammed whether rightly or wrongly, and one can speculate Lehigh University has been told to up its game with regard to its SBDC veterans activities in reaction.
But does it really matter why?
Finally, two important, southside Bethlehem organizations involved with economic opportunity programs, CADCB and Lehigh University, are giving veterans some of their attention on a topic veterans themselves have expressed interest: it has been reported about 40 percent of returning veterans have stated they would prefer to start their own businesses if given the chance. Therefore, they should be paying attention to this new outreach effort. This is not about being poor. This is not about the southside of Bethlehem. This is about an opportunity in finding paths to starting a business. Go, if you thinking about starting a business of your own.
By the way, the Director of the CADCB, Jessica R. Dreistadt, its director, is offering display space to LVMAC member veterans organizations.
For more information about the event, contact Jessica R. Dreistadt, Director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, at tel: 610-807-9337 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org . For more about CADCB, go to its website at www.cadcb.org .
As of 9 October 2014