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Veterans Business Outreach Center receives grant to assist Texas veterans
By Javier Espinoza, Intern
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 07/29/2013
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Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, president of The University of Texas-Pan American, is proud of the veteran community and understands the importance of giving back to veterans. He also understands there are veterans in the community who have an entrepreneurial spirit, yet need training and assistance to make their dreams come true.


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A recent ceremony at UTPA recognized a $70,000 award received by the UTPA Foundation from the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) Fund for Veterans' Assistance (FVA) that will support UTPA's Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) in providing entrepreneurial training for veterans. Pictured left to right at the ceremony are Ernesto Rodriguez Jr., development officer, UTPA Division for University Advancement; Martin Baylor, UTPA vice president for Business Affairs; Carlos Gutierrez, VBOC director, UTPA Office of University Engagement; Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president; Ashley D. Holcomb, grant officer, FVA, Texas Veterans Commission; Carol Conner, grant compliance officer, FVA, Texas Veterans Commission; Lydia Aleman, UTPA associate vice president for University Advancement; Alicia Moreno, accountant III, UTPA Comptroller's Office; and Carlos Alanis, accountant III, UTPA Office of the Vice President for University Advancement.
Nelsen, along with members of UTPA's Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC), were honored to be on hand recently as the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) and the University recognized the award of a Series VIII H Fund for Veterans’ Assistance (FVA) grant to the UTPA Foundation in the amount of $70,000.

It is funding Nelsen believes will assist the veteran community, particularly veterans interested in going into business for themselves.

“The funds go directly to the VBOC, which helps veterans develop businesses and serves all veterans in the Valley as well as the surrounding region and state, including, but not limited to, our students,” said Nelsen. “It has been a very successful initiative, and the center is embedded in UTPA’s Strategic Plan, ‘Bronc Country: The Engaged University.’"

Nelsen considers the VBOC a viable community resource and is confident the center will continue to provide valuable resources to veterans who have business aspirations.

“The VBOC is helping to generate jobs and bolster economic development throughout the Valley. I am extremely proud of how the center is improving not only the lives of veterans, but also countless others throughout the Valley,” Nelsen said.

The TVC is the state advocate for Texas veterans and their families. The agency assists them to secure the benefits rightfully earned in exchange for their service in the nation's armed forces. These benefits are provided through programs that offer direct services to veterans.

Through the VBOC, UTPA will provide training and business counseling services to veterans through its Entrepreneurship Training Project (ETP), which is supported by the TVC’s FVA grant. The goal of the ETP, which serves a five-state area, is to empower veterans by providing them with the information and one-on-one guidance that will allow for a higher probability of business success. The one-year grant will end on Dec. 31.

“U.S. military veterans, service disabled veterans, reservists, National Guard members and active duty military are eligible to participate in the program, as well as military spouses and widowed spouses,” said Elaine Zavala, FVA communications coordinator. “Veterans of the military are required to have a separation status of other than dishonorable. Student veterans may fall into any of these categories making them eligible to participate in the Entrepreneurship Training Project."

FVA grants have had a major impact on the health and well-being of Texas veterans and their families, however, the demand is high. Currently the FVA is only able to award approximately one-tenth of the requests by organizations helping Texas veterans.

“While TVC is a state agency, the program is not state-funded. The FVA program is funded by four sources: sales from the $2 Veterans Cash Lottery scratch-off games, donations from the Texas Vehicle Registration Form, online donations and from the State Employee Charitable Campaign,” Zavala said.

The VBOC deploys business training through collaboration with resource partners at military bases, Yellow Ribbon Program events and other nonprofit and state agencies across Texas. The training, which includes mentorship and advisement, leads to successful business starts and job creation and retention.

Carlos Gutierrez, VBOC director at UTPA and advocate for local veterans, looks forward to working on providing new opportunities to improve the professional lives of veterans.

“The grant will provide a comprehensive training course to veterans on how to start a business. There are going to be eight cohorts throughout the state in collaboration with other non-profits and state agencies,” Gutierrez said. “Training will be provided specifically to the Texas veteran population.”

UTPA student veterans have an opportunity to benefit from the training and are welcomed to participate. Online and onsite training sessions are being offered in August and October.

For more information, visit the VBOC website at www.utpa.edu/vboc or contact Gutierrez at (956) 665-7567.