Local state offers benefits for veteran-owned businesses
MARION, Ill. — Starting a business from scratch is never easy. It takes diligence and determination to turn ideas into cash.
More than 40,000 small businesses in Illinois are owned and operated by veterans. Illinois is moving forward with plans to use their services in state contracts.
But some veterans feel the paper trail may be standing in the way of progress.
"I'm not looking for preferential treatment but I’m looking for an even shot," said Rich McCall.
McCall has helmed his southern Illinois courier business for four years.
"Fifty registrations, six to twenty pages apiece, it gets to be a little bit of a hassle," he said.
But he found it frustrating trying to get certified as a veteran-owned small business because the state of Illinois and the feds have two different systems.
"You not only have to be registered with the federal government. You have to be registered with the state government. You have to be registered with all these different places," said McCall.
That's why the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is traveling across the Land of Lincoln, trying to explain the certification process.
"It helps the veteran-owned businesses that are here today connect the dots to get access to those state contracts," said Louis Pukelis, spokesperson for the Illinois Deparment of Veterans Affairs.
Governor Pat Quinn signed a new measure into law last year that aims to level the playing field.
It requires that 3 percent of every state contract go to veteran-owned small businesses. Total yearly sales of the business must be $75 million or less and larger veteran-owned operations can apply for an exemption.
"I'm looking at that as a positive aspect at this point," said McCall.
McCall believes Friday's event helped him understand what he needs to do to bid on state projects.
"I have to do this all myself, at night, when I'm not on the road driving," he said.
His only concern, though, is finding the time.