BATON ROUGE — Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards joined other state leaders and veterans at the National WWII Museum to launch the Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative. The program will promote veteran-owned businesses through certification, in-business displays and an online database that encourage consumers to do business with Louisiana’s veteran-owned firms.
“We know our veterans don’t stop serving when they come home. As business owners, veterans across the state continue to serve their communities with distinction and play an integral role in our economy,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative provides an opportunity for us to give back to our veterans and their families by purchasing goods and services from these businesses. As a former Army Airborne Ranger, I encourage all veterans, active-duty personnel, Gold Star families and reserve-military business owners to sign up for this program today and connect with new customers and clients. And I encourage everyone to make use of the Veterans First database by patronizing these businesses, and remember to thank them for their great service to our state and nation as well.”
Click here to watch the public service announcement for the Louisiana Veterans First Businesses Initiative featuring Gov. Edwards, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and Louisiana veterans.
The Louisiana Veterans First Business Initiative recognizes firms that are majority-owned by veterans, military reservists, active-duty personnel or Gold Star family members. Following a certification process, the program will promote their businesses through a public database at LAVeteransFirst.org. To support a veteran-owned business, visitors to the site may search by business name, region, and industry. Approximately 250 businesses are certified on the site already.
The Initiative was created through House Bill 391, by Rep. Franklin Foil who served 28 years in the U.S Navy. It was unanimously approved during the 2019 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Edwards.
"We want to recognize our veterans and help them when they come back home,” said Rep. Foil. “This helps not only our veterans but all of our citizens by making our state more veteran-friendly."
Louisiana Economic Development is managing the program in collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, or LDVA.
“Our men and women in uniform play a critical role in protecting our nation and preserving our values, and they also bring exceptional skills to the business community,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “On behalf of Louisiana Economic Development, I am honored to lead this initiative and to honor our Louisiana Veterans First businesses. Through this innovative program, customers across our state and from beyond our borders will be able to express their support of Louisiana veterans in a powerful new way.”
The Veterans First database will increase the visibility of certified businesses, allow potential customers to demonstrate their appreciation through patronage, and demonstrate the extent to which veterans and military families support the Louisiana economy and communities across the state.
“We want our Louisiana veterans to be able to come back home and find meaningful employment so they can continue to provide for their families,” LDVA Secretary Joey Strickland said. “The Veterans First Business Initiative is helping to do that by supporting veteran business owners and helping to connect them with their fellow brothers and sisters in arms who are looking for job opportunities.”
Business owners who are veterans – and those from Gold Star, reserve or active-duty backgrounds – are encouraged to visit LAVeteransFirst.org. Once on the website, participants will find steps to register. LDVA will certify the veteran status of applicants and will provide program support through its 74 parish field offices. Those offices will provide online and in-person support to assist applicants with certification. LED will provide the final business certification that requires all businesses to be in good standing with the Louisiana Secretary of State.
LED will manage call support; website and database maintenance; business services support; coordination of grassroots efforts with LDVA; and fulfillment of insignias, decals, and certificates to Veterans First businesses. LED’s Small Business Services team is optimizing how small businesses can be supported throughout the process, from registration to final certification.
“As a Service Disabled Veteran who served my country in the U.S. Army Reserve for over 30 years and started a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business upon my return to civilian life from Iraq and the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the creation of the Veterans First Business Initiative makes me feel appreciated and a proud resident of Louisiana,” said Danny Blanks, President and CEO of Pontchartrain Partners LLC. “This program will lend much-needed support for veteran-owned businesses by marketing these businesses to the public and encouraging fellow Louisiana citizens to purchase goods and services from them. This is an excellent way to show gratitude for the sacrifice of Louisiana veterans who are returning home and seeking economic opportunities.”
About Louisiana Veterans First
To register as a veteran-owned business, or to learn how to support Louisiana Veterans First businesses, visit LAVeteransFirst.org.