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Big Sky Economic Development hosts one of only 20 Veterans Business Outreach Centers n the nation. The specialization in veteran entrepreneurship is a compelling, economic growth strategy for forward-thinking, cutting-edge economic development organizations like BSED for these reasons, veterans:

• Make up about 6% of the U.S. population but 13.5 percent  of small business owners.

• Are 45 percent more likely than those without prior military service to be self-employed.

• Employ about 6 million Americans.

• Pay more than $210 billion in wages every year.

• Generate about $1.1 trillion in receipts annually.

• Produce about $1.7 trillion in GDP.

And, one in every 10 businesses is owned by a veteran. To further cultivate vetrepreneurship: We train. We counsel. We educate.

We train. Our training curricula is the standardized Boots to Business program developed by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. We teach it on 11 military installations. So far, we have trained more than 500 service members. Our Reboot training is the same curricula, which we offer to those who have already transitioned out. Last March alone, we trained nearly 100 veterans and their spouses in Helena, Missoula, Bozeman, Butte and Billings.

We counsel. We counsel any service member, veteran or spouse who contacts us for assistance. However, for those residing outside of Yellowstone County, referrals to our resource partners works better for veterans. Most folks want to look you in the eye when they share personal and financial information with you.

We educate. We educate through outreach. We attend Yellow Ribbon events to talk to service members pre- and post-deployment. We go to the armories, national guard headquarters, military installations and the Departments of Military Affairs to meet them where they are. We partner with the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, ESGR and all of the member organizations in Montana’s Joining Community Forces network.

I am so very proud of Big Sky Economic Development’s Board of Directors and the county commissioners who voted unanimously to host this center. I share a handwritten note I received from Rose Mary and Matt Hovan following our Reboot training last month in Billings: “Thank you so much for the informative seminar! We were afforded so many strategies. But thank you more for genuinely caring about those that served our Country to insure our freedom to pursue our dreams.” Truly, it is an honor to serve those who serve.

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