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Opening Statement of Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, and a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.  The Veterans’ Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing on veterans entrepreneurship and self employment will come to order.

Some of the panelists might recall a joint hearing we held with our colleagues on the Committee on Small Business in May 2005 on the subject of veteran small businesses.  Today’s hearing will build upon that hearing as we receive testimony to explore the current state of veterans’ entrepreneurship and the every day problems they may face.

Small businesses are an essential component to the implementation of strong economic development plans, especially in rural states like South Dakota.  Time and again, veterans have continually assisted in preserving this critical element of our nation’s economic prosperity.  In my home state of South Dakota, more than 17,000 veteran-owned small businesses are operating.  These brave men and women add tremendous value to our economy when given the opportunity to start and manage their own businesses.

Starting and growing a small business is no easy task and can be a difficult challenge.  I have heard of the many difficulties that disabled veterans face when starting and developing a small business.  In addition, I have also heard from many members of the National Guard and Reserve in South Dakota who find it challenging to maintain their small businesses when deployed overseas to and .  

I look forward to working with Ranking Member Boozman and Members of this Subcommittee to focus our efforts on assisting our nation’s veterans with these challenges.

I would like to welcome our panelists testifying before the Subcommittee today.

Joining us on our first panel is Ms. Dawn Halfaker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Halfaker and Associates, LLC; Mr. Mark Gross, President and Chief Executive Officer of Oak Grove Technologies; and Mr. Anthony Jimenez, President and Chief Executive Officer of MicroTech, LLC.

Joining us on our second panel of witnesses is Mr. Joe Wynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Veterans Enterprise Training and Service Group, Incorporated; Mr. Joseph Sharpe, Deputy Director for the National Economics Commission of the American Legion; and Mr. Richard Weidman, Director of Government Relations for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Participating on our third panel is Mr. Walter Blackwell, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Veterans Corporation; Mr. William Elmore, Associate Administrator for the Veterans Business Development of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Mr. Scott Denniston, Director of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and Mr. Louis Celli, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs for the U.S. Small Business Administration.

We thank everyone for their statements this afternoon.  We value your insight and interest on this topic.  This hearing stands adjourned.