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Hampton Roads Veterans Business Outreach Center Opens on ODU Campus

Rep. Glenn Nye joined Old Dominion University officials at the opening of the Hampton Roads Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) on Monday, June 21.

The center, which offers entrepreneurial development services to military veterans and reservists, is the newest unit within ODU's innovative Business Gateway initiative. It also builds on the strong partnership between the university and the military, a relationship ODU President John R. Broderick said stretches all the way back to World War II.

"We now have 24,000 students at ODU, and we estimate somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of them are in some way connected to the military," he said.

"The Veterans Business Outreach Center is just another way for ODU to show its commitment to the military in Hampton Roads."

Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the only such center in Virginia, the VBOC will provide outreach, assessment, long- and short-term business training, counseling, electronic and online assistance, and other technical assistance to veterans and U.S. military reserve-component business owners and entrepreneurs.

Nye, the Virginia Beach Democrat who has been a strong supporter of military veterans, called the VBOC "another feather in ODU's cap." He said anyone growing up in Hampton Roads realizes the importance of the military to life in the region.

"Today's opening of this VBOC is an important day, because I think it represents the importance of outreach to the veterans community," Nye said.

"We know that those who have served our country overseas have particular skills that are very applicable in business. That's why it's not a secret why they tend to be very successful. We also know that not everyone coming out of the service understands exactly how to approach the business community, the contracting community, how to get that mentoring advice."

Nye and other speakers at the opening singled out the work of VBOC director Cindy Walters as an advocate for military entrepreneurs for years prior to the opening of the center. Walters said she's thrilled for ODU to be taking such a tangible step to aid veterans in Hampton Roads, home to the largest concentration of veterans and active-duty personnel in the country.

"There is no greater need than now to provide concentrated business assistance to foster veteran entrepreneurs, when the demand for veteran entrepreneurs is so high," she said.

Walters introduced keynote speaker Kathleen Murray, a service-disabled veteran and founder of Norfolk's LAN Contracting Inc. Murray thanked Walters for the support she received for the start-up of her business, and said the VBOC will mean many more veteran entrepreneurs will get a vital helping hand.

"As business owners, we need a place to turn when our businesses need a tuneup. We need information, and more importantly, we need support," Murray said.

When she started LAN in 2008, Murray said she had no idea where to go to access such help. After getting bounced around from federal office to federal office, Murray said she received an incredible break when she was linked up with Walters.

Murray thanked Walters for her "almost weekly mentoring," adding, "Without her, we wouldn't be here today."

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Fred Crecelius, executive director of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said Murray's story is yet another example of the win-win partnership between the military in Hampton Roads, particularly the U.S. Navy, and Old Dominion University.

The VBOC will be housed at Innovation Research Park @ ODU, Building II, which is also home to the ODU Business Gateway.

The ODU Business Gateway is a business-friendly entry point to the intellectual capital, innovative technologies and world-class infrastructure of the university. It offers services matched to market needs, including business and entrepreneurial consulting and services, advanced manufacturing and technology solutions, training and professional development, unencumbered business consulting, and veterans business outreach and procurement assistance. The result is a dedicated resource for companies, non-profits, government agencies and entrepreneurs to help solve business problems, expand capabilities and create new ventures.

For more information call 757-683-5505 or visit www.ODUBusinessGateway.com.


This article was posted on: June 21, 2010

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