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Opening Statements

Luetkemeyer: “Military to Main Street: Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Committee on Small Business held a full hybrid hearing on “Military to Main Street: Serving Veteran Entrepreneurship.”

Ranking Member Blaine Luetkemeyer’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Madam Chair, for calling today’s hearing. 

Last month was military appreciation month, and we celebrate all who serve our country and risk their lives for our freedom. We also mourn the loss of those who gave their lives in service.

I want to start off by thanking all of our nation’s Veterans, service members, and their families for their sacrifice to our great country, including those testifying before us today.

As we all know, veteran-owned small businesses exemplify a resiliency unlike any other. These brave men and women not only served our country in one of the highest regards, but also came home and continued to support their communities through entrepreneurship and employing fellow veterans. 

There are more than 350,000 veteran-owned businesses in this country, and they provide an estimated 4 million jobs. From my interactions and conversations with veteran-business owners, they give back to their communities, they hire and support fellow veterans, and they greatly contribute to our economy.

During National Veterans Small Business Week in November, I was honored to host a Veterans Small Business Showcase and Roundtable. Over a dozen veteran entrepreneurs brought items that represented their businesses to the Capitol and shared their stories. So today, I would like to take a moment to share some of these amazing veteran-owned small businesses stories.

Four Brothers Mead, located in the great state of Missouri, is a “Veteran-owned and operated, family company bringing people of all backgrounds and ethnicities together through mead.” The four brothers include, Bryan Becker, a Veteran Combat Medic and Sergeant, Chris Schulte, who is currently serving in active reserve status as a Military Police Staff Sergeant, Joe Luck, a U.S. Army Veteran Staff Sergeant, and Dan Luck, an Air Force Veteran and former Air Transportation Airmen.

Valhalla’s Forge LLC, is a veteran and family-owned company that makes custom tables, flags, shields, plaques, and more with a focus on giving back to families of the fallen and retirees. After 20 deployments and 15 awards for his service, including a Bronze Star, Retired Navy Seal Chief Warrant Officer James Hintzke is the CEO of this inspiring business.  

Soulcial Kitchen, was founded by Brigadier General (Ret) John Michel, who served 26 years in the Air Force and led NATO’s effort to build the Afghan Air Force. He continues to serve others through his hospitality park, which features restaurants, bars, food trucks, and a dog park. He also supports other veteran entrepreneurs and created the first food truck entrepreneur program. 

I’d also like to recognize other veterans who attended the Showcase and Roundtable and shared their stories:

  • Brian Bufka, United States Navy Veteran and owner of 1st Place Printing;
  • Christine Lantinen, an Army Veteran Reservist and President of Maud Borup Inc.;
  • David Haydel, a Veteran Marine Corp Reservist and Owner of Haydel’s Bakery;
  • Donald Miller, Retired U.S. Navy Veteran, and Assistant Director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center in Norfolk, Virginia;
  • Jerome Johnson, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and a Dunkin/Baksin Robbins franchisee;
  • Joseph Lindenmayer, US Marine Corps Veteran and CEO of California Closets Gulf Coast;
  • Richard Cope, a US Marine Corps Combat Officer Veteran and CEO of KGM Technologies;
  • Robert Holt, US Army Veteran and Founder of Southern Draw Cigars LLC;
  • Scott Matheny, a Service-Disable Marine Corps Veteran and the President and Founder of Semper Tek, Inc.;
  • Timothy Shirey, a Veteran Marine Corps Staff Sargent and Owner of Hive and Honeybee; and
  • Wes Hester, a Service-Disabled U.S. Army Veteran and CEO of Foxhole Technology.

In addition to these veteran-entrepreneurs, there are countless others who deserve our deepest thanks and applause.

Today, we will hear directly from Mr. Joe Shamess, who served our Nation as an active-duty Air Force Special Operations Pilot and National Guard pilot. Mr. Shamess is now the co-founder of Flags of Valor and the Founder and General Partner of Flintlock Capital.

Veteran entrepreneurs, like Mr. Shamess, are the definition of American values, service, and innovation.

It is incredible to hear the stories of how veteran-small business owners have used their experiences and skills they learned in the service to run a successful business. However, I have also heard about the unique challenges that veteran-entrepreneurs face.

In addition to skyrocketing inflation, supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and burdensome regulations, veteran-owned small businesses face added challenges in accessing capital and resources.

The SBA has counseling, capital, and contracting programs that are designed to assist veteran entrepreneurs in addressing these challenges. It is important that Congress conducts oversight and ensures that these programs effectively serve small businesses, including veteran-owned businesses. For this reason, I introduced the IMPROVE the SBA act which will increase accountability at the SBA, empower entrepreneurs through counseling, enhance access to capital opportunities, and improve federal contracting programs.

Additionally, after receiving feedback from veteran small businesses owners regarding access to capital, I led a letter requesting the GAO to conduct an analysis of the effectiveness and efficacy of the SBA’s access to capital programs, specifically as it relates to veteran-owned businesses.

Further, Vice Ranking Member Williams and Congressman Schneider introduced the Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act of 2021, which codifies the Boots to Business veteran training program.

As the Republican Leader of the House Committee on Small Business, I will continue to advance policies that empower our veteran entrepreneurs, ensure the SBA resource partners are meeting their needs, maintain the integrity of contracting programs, and support access to capital.

I look forward to continuing to learn from our veteran-entrepreneurs on how we can support their growth and prosperity.

Thank you, and I yield back.