Veterans Own Nine Percent of U.S. Businesses, Advocacy Study Finds

With his wife Trish, Gary Walker, Missouri Small Business Person of the Year for 2011, opened a cleaning service. Their company, Magic Touch Cleaning, has thrived using environmentally friendly cleaning products. The company’s clients include banks, medical facilities, eye surgery centers, and car dealerships.

Kelly Terrien, 2011 Small Business Person of the Year for Colorado, went from dress blues to a civilian businesswoman’s suit after 10 years of military service. Today, Summit Technical Solutions, which provides professional technical services, employs 350 people.

Walker and Terrien are just two of the many veterans of U.S. military service who own more than 9 percent of U.S. businesses—an estimated 2.45 million firms in all. Advocacy’s new study on business ownership by veterans, Veteran-owned Businesses and their OwnersData from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, uses recently released data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners for 2007 to examine firms owned by veterans.

Highlights of the 90-page study include the following:

  • Of the total, 491,000 veteran-owned firms were employers, and 1.96 million were nonemployers.
  • Veteran-owned firms had sales receipts of $1.2 trillion, 5.8 million employees, and annual payroll of $210 billion. Employer firms were responsible for 92 percent of the receipts, or $1.1 trillion.
  • Nearly one-third of all veteran-owned firms were in two industry groups: the construction industry and professional, scientific and technical services.

veteran-owned businesses: kind of business, 2007

  • By state, California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Georgia had the largest numbers of veteran-owned businesses. The five states with the largest shares of veteran-owned businesses compared to total businesses were South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
  • Of the veteran business owners who responded to the survey, 8.3 percent had service-connected disabilities. Service-disabled veterans formed a larger proportion of non-employer owners than of employer owners, 9.3 percent and 6.0 percent, respectively.
  • Veteran business owners were overwhelmingly male (94.8 percent) and white (89.7 percent); 7.6 percent of veteran-owned firms were owned by African Americans and 4.6 percent by Hispanic Americans.
  • About 75 percent of owners were over the age of 55, reflecting the ages of veterans overall. As a group they tended to be better educated than other business owners.
  • By far the largest source of capital for veteran-owned business startup or acquisition was personal or family savings: 61.7 percent of respondents reported using this source. Business loans from banks or other commercial lenders were a distant second, at 9.8 percent.

—Kathryn Tobias, Senior Editor