On Memorial Day, we honor the legacy of men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who bravely served their country. It is also a fitting day to recognize how military veterans among us have served to not only protect American freedom, but also contribute to our local economic vitality.
As employees or business owners, military veterans bring a range of experience, skills and values to the workplace that lead to success for businesses, and spur growth for local economies.
One Bradenton area example of a veteran-owned, entrepreneurial business is Trinity Manufacturing Corp. where Jim Fitch, a U.S. Army combat veteran and former banking executive, is president and owner. His long-time friend, Paul Goldich, also an Army vet, serves as vice president. Together, they formed Trinity in 2003 and today employ 50 local residents, including several military veterans.
Trinity is a designer and contract manufacturer of cable assemblies, wiring harnesses and electromechanical assemblies. The company's customers are original equipment manufacturers (OEM), contractors and distributors that serve defense, aerospace and commercial industries. Trinity's annual payroll exceeds $1 million, and the business has made ongoing capital investments in facilities and equipment.
Fitch says military service helped him prepare for many aspects of running a small business. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Fitch served in Operation Desert Storm, as well as Army headquarters in Europe and in the Pentagon.
"In the Army, I worked in a variety of operating environments from large headquarters to small units, from information technology to crawling in mud," he explained. "I learned different management and leadership techniques and styles, leading people in adverse circumstances and constantly changing situations. These experiences helped me to respond to the different challenges I encounter as a small business owner."
To help military veterans like Fitch realize their entrepreneurial dreams, the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee provides business consultants who can assist with becoming a certified, veteran-owned business, government contracting, growth ac
celeration, import/export plans, marketing strategies and capital access for veterans. No-cost services are available with confidential consulting. Many of the consultants have a military background. More information is available at sbdctampabay.com/services/veteran-owned-business/.
Through SBDC Florida, veterans also can gain access to services from the Veterans Business Outreach Center, which helps create, develop and retain veteran-owned businesses. Clients of the center in the southeastern United States reported an increase in profits of more than $51 million in 2013. Learn more at vboc.org.
The qualities that help veterans lead their own businesses also apply to veterans as employees, Fitch says.
"Veterans are mature, have received skills training, and gained experience working with all types of people," Fitch says. "They've faced physically and mentally challenging situations, so they are adaptable and able to handle unexpected situations as we encounter them in business. The military's emphasis on process, discipline and attention to detail is highly relevant in manufacturing."
For returning vets seeking employment, CareerSource Suncoast can assist with translating skills honed during military service into resume material that is relevant to today's employment opportunities. Employment candidates can learn more about services for jobseekers at careersourcesc.com.
On this day when we remember the men and women who bravely served our nation, let's also recognize the value of veterans among us who have much to contribute as business owners and employees.
Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (thinkbradentonarea.com), may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 748-4842, ext. 128.