As a veteran, I have too often witnessed my fellow veterans returning from active combat roles, only to struggle to reorient into everyday life and provide for their families. Brave men and women who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect the freedoms of our land are returning to civilian life unprepared to make that difficult transition. It is estimated that upwards of 25 percent of our veteran community is food poor, lacking adequate access to daily meals.
I myself have seen this firsthand when I returned from active duty in the Air National Guard at the 183rd TAC Base in Springfield, Ill. During Desert Storm, I was called to active duty and positioned stateside at Cannon Airforce Base, awaiting my rotation to Kuwait. Due to the short length of the operation, the conflict ended before my rotation began.
As those who had been sent over to Kuwait and Iraq began returning from military duty, I realized the hardships many faced, including finding stable employment. Without a secure job and income, returning service members can feel extremely isolated from society, further exacerbating an already difficult transition.
After returning from active duty, I was fortunate enough to find rewarding work in the franchise sector. Over the past three decades, I have worked my way up and now own three Express Employment franchises in Indiana. We provide help to people looking for local employment opportunities, with my three small businesses alone hiring more than 800 workers per week among over 200 local companies.
Franchising has not only helped myself transition from the military back into everyday life, it has given me the resources to give those same opportunities back to other veterans now making that same transition. Through my businesses, I have been able to hire fellow veterans, sponsor and participate in events in the veteran community, and use my platform to highlight issues affecting veterans.
All of these initiatives would simply not be possible without the benefits franchising has afforded me. It has given me purpose, opportunity and the freedom to build from my service in the military and transition into a career in which I have not only personally succeeded, but have also been able to give back to my local community.
While franchising has had a profoundly positive influence on my life following the end of my active-duty service, the fact is that starting a franchise is out of the reach of many veterans. Which is why I am so grateful to Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) for her commitment to our community. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Military Appreciation Day event and I’m so grateful that she has introduced H.R. 446, the Veteran Entrepreneurs Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.).
The bill greatly reduces the barriers facing veterans seeking to start a small business by creating a tax credit to cover 25 percent of their initial franchise fees. I wholeheartedly support the passage of this bill. According to research from the IFA Foundation, 238,000 veterans and military spouses have found employment in the franchise industry, while only 6,500 veterans have worked their way up to owning their own franchise business since 2011. This bill would give all veterans the opportunity to pursue ownership of their own franchise.
While serving your country in the military comes with great sacrifices, veterans should not have to sacrifice their financial future once their active duty is over. While I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue my own franchise business, many veterans do not have the means necessary to follow in my path. This is why we need to pass the Veteran Entrepreneurs Act and give veterans back a fraction of the freedom they have given us.
Norm Robertson served in the Air National Guard and now owns three Express Employment franchises in Indiana.
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