Veterans follow their business dreams
MORGANTOWN — Going from the battlefield to the boardroom, many West Virginian veterans have followed their entrepreneurial dreams.
The U.S. Small Business Administration classifies two different types of veteran owned businesses; standard veteran owned and service disabled veteran owned. West Virginia Small Business Administration Deputy District Director George Murray said distinctions are important for several reasons.
“The federal government is required to give certain classifications of business a percentage of contracts each year,” Murray said. “In the case of service disabled veteran owned businesses, that is 3 percent.”
Murray added that with an organization as large as the Federal Government, even small percentages can mean billions of dollars.
“Three percent might not sound like a lot, but you have to put into context just how much money the government spends on these contracts,” he said. “When they are spending between 400 or 500 billion dollars a year 3 percent is quite a lot.”
Murray said the awarding of government contracts to small businesses is important to maintaining a healthy economy.
“The government wants to make sure it’s maintaining a diverse industrial base,” he said. “Diversity is key to a healthy economy, and small business helps provide it.”
Doug Tate, owner of Alpha Technologies, first entered the military when he was 18, leaving on medical retirement just shy of nine years of service. After transitioning back to civilian life, Tate founded Alpha Technologies, a service disabled veteran-owned small business.
“We work with our customers to satisfy a number of technological needs,” Tate said. “We own several data centers, have built miles of fiber optic cable networks and more.”
Tate said government entities awarding him and other small companies contracts is crucial to their business.
“Their awarding small businesses contracts is extremely important to both owners and the economy at large,” Tate said. “Without that investment in small business, the small companies will never have the ability to get into these government contracts and compete with big companies.”
While there is work available for companies like Alpha Technologies in the private sector, Tate said they are often insufficient for growing businesses.
“There is commercial work out there, but federal projects tend to be larger, last longer and pay more,” Tate said. “They really act as a great cornerstone for a young company to build upon.”
Tate added that there are also numerous advantages to hiring small companies, which can give out services he believes larger businesses can’t.
“In my opinion the big difference between Alpa Technologies and our larger competitors is flexibility,” he said. We are able to quickly adjust and service our customers in a way that isn’t as easy for a large company, and provide that personal touch.”
Tate also said companies like Alpha Technologies have one big strength that many more established companies lack; - a hunger and desire to grow.
“Since we’re trying to expand, we don’t ask for the same profit margins as these bigger companies,” he said. “While a large company might need to make twice the percentage points, a small company can go leaner, which with government contracts save the taxpayers money.”