BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative, established in 2019 to promote businesses owned by veterans, active-duty or reserve military and Gold Star spouses, has reached a new milestone with the certification of its 1,000th participating veteran-owned business.
The joint venture of Louisiana Economic Development and the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs was created as a result of then-Rep. Franklin Foil’s House Bill 391, which was part of Gov. Edwards’ 2019 legislative package. It maintains a searchable database that connects participating companies with customers who want to show appreciation for military service by patronizing veteran-owned businesses. As of March 13, the database listed 1,012 veteran-owned businesses.
“The Veterans First Business Initiative provides an opportunity for Louisianans to give back to current and former service members and their families who have sacrificed so much for us,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “To have certified 1,000 businesses is a tribute to the tremendous contribution that veterans make to our state’s economy. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this resource, whether it’s applying your business for certification or using the database to find a veteran-owned business near you.”
Veterans, active-duty or reserve military and Gold Star spouses are invited to visit LAVeteransFirst.org to get certified and listed. The online database can be accessed here.
Approximately 283,000 veterans reside in the state, according to the most recent U.S. Census. Louisiana Economic Development offers a variety of special assistance programs for vets seeking to launch, manage and grow their own businesses.
The Pathway to Assist Veteran Entrepreneurs (PAVE) offers unique, virtual entrepreneurship training. The PAVE program provides tools for Louisiana veterans to start or manage a business through virtual classes. Veterans are invited to visit OpportunityLouisiana.com/PAVE to learn more.
Louisiana’s Veteran Initiative is designed to help eligible veteran-owned and service-connected disabled-veteran-owned small businesses to gain greater access to state purchasing and contracting opportunities. The Veteran Initiative continues to grow, nearly doubling its total expenditures in 2022 – $16.7 million directed to veteran-certified businesses, compared to $8.7 million in 2021. Veterans can visit OpportunityLouisiana.com/Veteran-Initiative for eligibility guidelines and registration.
Louisiana also has entered into a partnership with NextOp, the national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping service members deal with civilian employment challenges. NextOp and LED FastStart, the state’s nationally recognized workforce development program, are teaming up to host hiring events exclusively designed to place veterans in careers that utilize their unique training and experience.
The first such event took place earlier this year in Bossier City, targeting veterans with aviation experience. Additional events showcasing other military skills will be scheduled in the months ahead.
“Louisiana’s economy continues to be strengthened by the hard work and dedication of veteran-owned businesses and their families,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “LED remains committed to helping Louisiana’s military community through programs to help them through every stage of business ownership.”
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant economy. It is the only state agency in the U.S. accredited by the International Economic Development Council, boasting award-winning programs like LED FastStart, rated the No. 1 customized workforce training program in the U.S. 13 years in a row. In 2022, LED attracted 53 new economic development projects representing 18,137 new direct, indirect and retained jobs and $20.7 billion in new capital investment. Explore how LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana and employers of all sizes at OpportunityLouisiana.com.