We want to make sure that when they come back to Utah and transition to the civilian life that they’re successful at it. —Gov. Gary Herbert
SOUTH SALT LAKE — Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams approached the edge of a plywood platform on a borrowed dirt jumper bike and looked down the curved ramp below.
"This is where I crash," he told Spencer Randle, owner of Wasatch Indoor Bike Park. "I'm not going to high center on this, am I?"
After receiving reassurances from Randle, the mayor — still wearing his dress shirt, shoes and suit pants — rode his 26-inch Scott Voltage over the edge.
Randle is one of more than 18,000 veteran entrepreneurs in Utah and among the first to benefit from a local partnership that provides education, training, loans, marketing, budgeting, college credit for military service and other support to Utah's veterans.
“We want to make sure that when they come back to Utah and transition to the civilian life that they’re successful at it,” said Gov. Gary Herbert.
McAdams and Herbert joined representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration and other partners at the bike park, 815 W. 2400 South, Monday to announce what McAdams called "a one-stop shop" for veteran resources — the Utah Veteran Owned Business Partnership.
“What we’re trying to do is make it easy for them to find those services and connect with them so they can spend their time and energy bringing jobs to the economy and progressing,” McAdams said. "Now Utah veterans can cut down on time and effort and see all of the resources that are available to support our veterans at the click of a mouse."
There were more than 150,000 veterans in the state in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and almost 51,000 in Salt Lake County between 2008 and 2012, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Utah's veterans had a slightly higher unemployment rate in 2013 at 4.7 percent than the general population at 4.3 percent, according to data from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.
Although county, state and federal resources for veterans were available, many did not know where to find them.
"Finding the right information in the right place was very, very difficult," Randle said.
In the past, veterans like Randle would have to turn to Google to find what resources were available to them after returning from service and hope it would lead somewhere beneficial. Now those returning from combat can find all the resources they need in one place: veterans.utah.gov. The site acts as a portal for all veterans throughout the state to connect them to local resources.
Many of those returning from combat have experience with leadership, conflict resolution and teamwork but need training, guidance or education to help them assimilate back to civilian life.
“Those skills — hard work, teamwork, determination, commitments, you know, leadership — those skills that they’ve learned in the military translate very well into the private sector and particularly into business,” Herbert said.
In addition to helping veterans, their ability to compete in the market will help boost the state's economy.
“It’s a win-win. It helps them transition back to the civilian life, it helps us grow the economy, create jobs and economic opportunity for the rest of us. It expands our economic base here in Utah and gives us a better quality of life,” Herbert said.
According to Herbert, the program is designed in part to thank the veterans for their service.
“It’s been said that a veteran is someone who writes a blank check to the people of America, up to and including their life, and unfortunately too (often what) we see across America is we’re forgetting the significant sacrifice that our veterans give," he said.
Partners include the Utah Department of Veteran and Military Affairs, Salt Lake County, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Salt Lake Chamber, the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Zions Bank and American Express.