Helping veteran-owned businesses obtain government contracts has been a long-running cause for advocates, according to Brian St. Ours, founder of an online directory of such companies. But like other small firms, the size of a veteran-owned business often is a roadblock to getting public-sector business.
“Many businesses that are owned by veterans are one- and two-man shops,” St. Ours said. “They don’t have time to go through these bids. Plus, there’s so much government-speak that the average small-business person doesn’t even understand half the stuff.”
St. Ours, who founded www.veteranownedbusiness.com, hopes a new bill, signed late last month by Gov. Chris Christie, will at least bring exposure to the issue. The measure calls for the state Department of the Treasury to coordinate with the Economic Development Authority and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to encourage veteran-owned businesses to participate in the state contracting process.
As one strategy to monitor the state’s progress, the law will require each contracting agency to submit an annual report to Treasury. The reports will include details such as the total dollar value and number of contracts awarded to veteran-owned businesses, the types and sizes of businesses receiving contracts, and the efforts made by the agency to publicize and promote the program.
The information would then be used to generate annual reports to the governor and Legislature, according to the text of the bill.
St. Ours said he welcomed any attention for veteran-owned businesses. A major boost for the cause would be a set-aside program, in which a government requires agencies to devote some of their contracts to veteran-owned businesses, he said. But such programs are uncommon.
“It would be great to see the states do it,” St. Ours said. “However, I can completely understand that states are going to have a difficult time saying, ‘You must spend part of your budget with this type of business,’ because obviously, it segregates veteran-owned businesses.”
The original bill called for establishing a goal for state agencies to award at least 3 percent of contracts to veteran-owned businesses, according to the Legislature’s website. But the legislation was reworked after being conditionally vetoed by Christie in February. In the veto memorandum, Christie said he was “concerned that this bill does not sufficiently address the needs of all veteran-owned businesses in New Jersey.”
“Rather than limiting veterans to narrow segments of our economy, the state should encourage robust participation of veteran-owned businesses throughout all aspects of the state’s contracting choices,” Christie wrote.