Tejon Woods, who has a doctorate in nursing practice, has a mental health clinic in Arcadia. She is considering expanding her practice to help patients from low-income and often underserved communities who may need counseling in Spanish, Tagalog and Mandarin.
But commercial units cost several thousand dollars a month to rent. So Woods said he wants to apply for a $1 million loan backed by the Small Business Administration — so he can buy a property to expand his practice.
Woods is also a retired Air Force captain.
On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 2, he joined dozens of business owners with military experience as well as local government officials at a ceremony celebrating the SBA’s expanded Veteran Business Assistance Center, a regional resource and education center. help veterans and their families succeed as small business owners.
During the event, SBA representatives also informed veterans about the services provided at VBOC.
“I want to serve underserved communities, especially the ‘neglected,'” Woods said before the ceremony began.
Although the ceremony was held aboard the Battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro—a fitting backdrop given the center’s purpose—the VBOC is actually a designation given by the SBA to Long Beach City College.
Through the Nationwide Veterans Employment Center program, SBA—the only cabinet-level federal agency dedicated entirely to helping small businesses—offers support to active-duty service members and veterans, as well as their families and dependents, as they enter the business world. ownership by providing resources such as funding programs, training, and federal contracting opportunities.
LBCC was designated a VBOC in May and was one of six organizations to receive a $375,000 SBA grant because the college has demonstrated its commitment to addressing and helping veteran-owned small businesses, according to an announcement at the time. to succeed.
The original purpose was to help military personnel nearing the end of their military service who wanted to own a business. But the SBA recently declared City College an expanded VBOC, meaning it now helps active duty service members, veterans and their families and dependents.
SBA Administrator Isabel Guzman announced the designation of the expanded VBOC in Iowa on Thursday, pledging sufficient resources to help veterans transition from active duty to civilian life by helping certify their businesses so they can offer training, one-on-one counseling and pitching. for federal contracts.
As an expanded VBOC, Long Beach City College will support veterans seeking loans to open their own micro and small businesses and find loans to grow or invest in businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Diego counties.
Funding VBOCs has become a priority for the Biden administration, Guzman said, as the pandemic has exposed segments of economic and social neglect among veterans, their spouses and the communities where they live and work.
“The country has 2 million veterans, businesses (worth $2 billion), which both strengthens the economy and makes it more competitive, Guzman said. “They are great entrepreneurs and employers.”
According to Guzman, VBOC centers have grown from 1,200 to 1,600 nationwide in less than four years. The goal is not to leave veteran-owned businesses behind.
Jordan Kirby, president of Krieger Gaming, a nonprofit online gaming and mental health support community for veterans, said he attended the morning event to build relationships and learn about funding opportunities to expand the organization.
Krieger Gaming offers veterans a platform to overcome feelings of depression and isolation by turning on video games to relax, socialize and connect with friends, Kirby said.
“We help law enforcement, dispatchers, veterans,” Kirby said. “Video games and friendship help fight depression.”
Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Herlinda Chico said the graduation rate for veterans who attend two-year colleges is three times higher than the general population. He also emphasized that thanks to education and professional support, veterans will succeed in their business activities.
“We believe in the power of education to change lives and the faith of men and women to enable our mission,” he said. “Veterans play a key role in regional economic development in Los Angeles. Let’s make sure we’re serving veterans not just in L.A., but in the six counties of Southern California.”