Pa. veteran entrepreneurs to get expanded support from Biden-Harris Administration

Pennsylvania veteran business owners are among entrepreneurs who will receive expanded support from the federal government.

The Biden-Harris Administration announced Friday expanded support for the Veterans Business Outreach Centers from 22 to 28 locations, fully servicing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. 

There are nearly two million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., employing over five million people and generating over $1.3 trillion in annual revenue. Organizations receiving grants from the Small Business Administration (SBA) demonstrate a commitment to addressing challenges facing veteran-owned small businesses and help them succeed through the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. 

“Our servicemembers have protected our nation with selfless honor and sacrifice, and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting them with resources and opportunities as they pursue their American dreams of business ownership,” U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement. 

“With this expansion of our veteran-focused network of small business centers, we can help more transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses start and grow their businesses and advance our economy.” 

Grants will support a variety of services, including the following: 

  • Business planning: Provides veterans with training and counseling on accounting financial planning, and management. 
  • Assistance accessing capital: Provides veterans help in understanding the multitude of sources of capital available to them, as well as helps them in accessing financing, loans, and grants. 
  • Marketing and outreach: Provides marketing and outreach services to promote veteran-owned businesses in their communities and beyond. 
  • Transitioning. Provides Boots to Business instruction to help active-duty service members transition out of the military.

Acting Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development Timothy Green said Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) are a one-stop shop for business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses who are interested in starting a small business or expanding an existing one. 

“The new centers will provide additional resources to increase support and access for nearly 2 million veteran-owned small businesses,” said Green. “The expanded locations aim to enhance the veteran small business owner experience with more opportunities for training and less appointment wait times.”

Veterans, underserved populations to benefit from SBA, VetCert

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to expanding access to resources for veterans and other underserved populations, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is accepting applications through the Veteran Small Business Certification (VetCert). 

VetCert’s improvements in the customer experience for veteran entrepreneurs and business will expand upon the $25 billion in government contract spending with service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) in Fiscal Year 2021.  

Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement the SBA’s new veteran small business certification program is designed to deliver support skilled entrepreneurs from America’s military community. 

“Supporting these veteran entrepreneurs with access to government contracting,” said Guzman, “will ensure they can continue their valued service to the American people, whether working in manufacturing, retail, R&D, or helping us build critically needed infrastructure to promote America’s long-term growth, job creation, and wealth generation.” 

Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, cited service to nation as a reason for small businesses owned by veterans being eligible for key benefits. 

The transfer of veteran certification responsibility from the Veterans Administration (VA) to the SBA aligns with the Biden Administration’s focus on stronger interagency collaboration, with the belief that two agencies working together benefits the veteran community and the country.    

The program will be the agency’s primary certification vehicle for all veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and SDVOSBs, important classifications that enable those businesses to qualify for sole-source and set-aside federal contracting awards. Certified VOSBs are eligible to compete for sole-source and set-aside contracts at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Certified SDVOSBs can compete for sole-source and set-aside contracts government-wide. 

As the SBA moves forward to ensure more veteran entrepreneurs have access to economic opportunities,Guzman has granted a one-time, one-year extension to the current veteran small businesses verified by the Veterans AdministrationCenter for Verification and Evaluation (CVE)as of Jan. 1, 2023.   

To streamline the certification experience for veteran entrepreneurs, the SBA is implementing several improvements: 

  • Giving veterans a central support platform for their small business certification needs. 
  • Providing reciprocal certification for businesses with remaining eligibility in the women-owned small business (WOSB) and 8(a) programs. 
  • Creating a more business-friendly approach by streamlining the application process and aligning ownership and control requirements across the VetCert, 8(a), and WOSB programs.  

To be eligible to apply for the Veteran Small Business Certification Program, an applicant must: 

  • Be considered a small business, as defined by the size standard corresponding to any NAICS code listed in the business’s SAM profile. 
  • Have no less than 51% of the business owned and controlled by one or more Veterans. 
  • For certification as a SDVOSB, have no less than 51% of the business owned and controlled by one or more veterans rated as service-disabled by VA. 
  • For those veterans who are permanently and totally disabled and unable to manage the daily business operations of their business, their business may still qualify if their spouse or appointed, permanent caregiver is assisting in that management. 
  • Eligible new applicants certified by the SBA after Jan. 1, 2023, will receive the standard three-year certification period.  

Firms verified by the VA Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) as of Jan. 1, 2023, are automatically granted certification by SBA for the remainder of the firm’s eligibility period.

New Vitae cuts ribbon on Browne Cottage named for state senator

New Vitae Wellness and Recovery holds a ribbon cutting for its new Browne Cottage. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

New Vitae Wellness and Recovery has held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Browne Cottage, a new living space at its Mount Trexler Manor/Action Recovery site in Upper Saucon Township. 

The cottage is part of a new project to provide housing options for veterans and others looking for brain injury care in home-like settings. 

It was named in honor of Pa. State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, who along with other state legislators helped New Vitae to secure $1 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant funding for the project.  

The state’s RACP grant program supports economic, cultural, and civic improvement projects that have widespread impact and generate or sustain jobs and economic activity. 

“The value of the important work New Vitae Wellness and Recovery does day-in and day-out to help those with brain injuries cannot be overstated,” Browne said. “I have been proud to support their mission and I want to thank their leadership and dedicated staff for all of their efforts in helping this vulnerable community.” 

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, New Vitae presented Browne and his wife Heather with a dedication plaque to mark the naming of the Browne Cottage.  

“We are excited to open Browne Cottage and offer individuals a comforting environment where they can focus on healing and wellness,” said Judith O. Yanacek, president and CEO of New Vitae Wellness and Recovery. “These cottages will provide a safe space in which individuals can continue along the road to recovery through integrated brain injury rehabilitation and mental health care.” 

The eight-bed cottages at Mount Trexler Manor were designed to offer the safety and structure of 24/7 staffing while encouraging and supporting each individual’s progress toward their self-defined life goals. 

Each cottage will be self-sufficient and ADA accessible, with bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry facilities, a medication room, kitchen, community area, learning lab and smart technology. 

Pa.’s small, diverse, and veteran businesses benefiting from billions in contract spending

Since 2015, more than $4.5 billion has been spent with Pennsylvania’s small, diverse, and veteran businesses through state contracts. For two years in a row, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has set records for contract spending with these businesses, including $995 million in Fiscal Year 2021. 

Wolf said in a statement that his administration has made supporting these businesses a top priority. 

“From the outset, we wanted to make the state contracting process more inclusive, equitable and fair for small businesses,” said Wolf. “Over the last seven years, we’ve put our money where our mouth is with multiple record-setting spending years. This is about building an economy that works for everyone – including the small businesses that power our communities.” 


The nearly $1 billion spent in Fiscal Year 2021 shattered the previous mark of $856 million set the year before and generated 10,000 new jobs. This FY spend with all small businesses represents an increase of 169% from 2015, when Wolf signed an executive order directing a coordinated and consistent effort to ensure diversity and inclusion in all contracting opportunities for small and diverse businesses throughout agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction. 


The executive order also established the Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (BDISBO) to directly affect change for small businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and small diverse businesses – businesses owned by minorities, women, service-disabled veterans, individuals with disabilities and members of the LGBT community. 


“There is much to be proud of when it comes to our accomplishments in serving the small, small diverse and veteran business communities,” said Department of General Services (DGS) Acting Secretary Joe Lee. “The policies and programs we have been able to implement have laid a more than solid foundation that can be built upon for continued success in the years ahead.” 


The implementation of three policy/program changes in Fiscal Year 2020 was cited by Lee as a key point in the progress of BDISBO’s efforts. The changes are represented by the following: 


  • Small Business Reserve (SBR) that enabled small businesses to compete as prime contractors on specific procurements; 
  • implementation of goal setting for SDBs/VBEs to set minimum participation levels on goods, services and construction procurements; 
  • creation of the stand-alone Veteran Business Enterprise program that set participation goals specifically for these businesses. 


Kerry Kirkland, department of general services deputy secretary for diversity inclusion and small business opportunities, said a trend has been set in innovation and creativeness. 


“We have been able to commission the commonwealth’s first-ever Statewide Disparities Study; convene the first-ever DISBO Governor’s Advisory Council; and implement several other groundbreaking policies and programs to benefit small, small diverse and veteran businesses,” said Kirkland. “The future is truly bright for these business communities moving forward.” 


Program goals include conducting the follow-up to the disparity study; developing a capital and technical assistance program for small, small diverse and veteran-owned businesses; and continuing the promotion of legislation to statutorily establish BDISBO programs and policies.

Yuengling continues to support diversity in brewing

Pottsville-based D.G. Yuengling & Sons Inc. Is continuing its efforts to encourage women, minorities and veterans to engage in careers in the brewing industry. 

The company has announced plans to continue its partnership with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Brewing Arts Program. 

The brewer is providing a $10,000 donation dedicated to funding its Diversity in Brewing Scholarship and the Yuengling Veteran Scholarship. 

Yuengling’s $5,000 Diversity in Brewing Scholarship is presented annually to an individual from a traditionally underrepresented population and covers the cost of tuition to USFSP’s Brewing Arts Certificate program for the upcoming spring semester.  

Yuengling’s second scholarship opportunity, the $5,000 Yuengling Veteran Scholarship, provides one veteran with full funding to attend USFSP’s Brewing Arts program. Recipients of the Yuengling Veteran Scholarship will be announced ahead of the program’s August 2022 session. 

“As four women helping to lead America’s Oldest Brewery, my sisters and I understand the importance of shaping opportunities for anyone interested in pursuing their passion in brewing,” said Jennifer Yuengling, vice president of operations and sixth generation family member of D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. “We’re raising our glasses to bettering the brewing industry and are proud to help support the development of the next generation of brewers through these scholarships.”  

The Brewing Arts program is a collaboration between USF’s College of Arts and Sciences and several local and national breweries. Launched in 2015, the online program is designed for brewers ranging from hobbyists to enthusiasts looking to make a career in the industry by working in or opening a brewery one day.  

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Yuengling again this year and to continue building on the success we’ve seen in our program thanks to these scholarships,” said Jennifer Sedillo, program director of the Brewing Arts program. “Diversity is an ongoing area of concern in both our program and the industry at large, and we hope to continue progress on this issue by creating opportunities for underrepresented groups with these scholarships and Yuengling’s support.” 




Mack Defense to sell collectible truck model to benefit veterans and families

Proceeds from the Mack Anthem Digi Camo diecast models sales will be donated to Fisher House, a nonprofit serving military and veteran’s families. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Mack Defense of Allentown said it will be helping veterans and their families with the sale of the new Max Anthem diecast model.

The truck model, which is sold through the Mack gift shop at www.mackshop.com, is a Mack Anthem Digi Camo built to a 1:50 scale. If features an opening hood and doors, authentic engine and cab interior, a pivoting fifth-wheel plate and a detachable trailer.

It’s listed for sale at $109.99 on the website.

Proceeds from the sale of the collectible diecast truck model will be donated to the Fisher House Foundation, which builds comfort houses near military and Veterans Administration hospitals where military and veteran’s families can stay for free while a loved one is in the hospital.

“Mack Defense is committed to supporting those in the military and our veterans in any way we can to acknowledge their unwavering commitment to help protect and serve our country and its citizens,” said David Hartzell, president of Mack Defense. “We are proud to be able to donate to Fisher House Foundation proceeds from sales of our military-inspired Mack Anthem diecast model.”

Mack will donate $20,000 this year for sales in 2019 and 2020, and will contribute up to $10,000 more next year as sales continue.

Steelworkers memorial moved to new home at industrial museum

Crews lower the Steelworkers memorial onto its new location at the National Museum of Industrial History. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


A monument to Bethlehem Steel workers who served in the military has found a new home at the National Museum of Industrial History, which is located on former Steel property in South Side Bethlehem.

The memorial had been located at Third and Polk streets, which will be the future site of the new Polk Street Parking Garage.

The move to the newly developed area of the museum’s plaza was finance by the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority through a $25,000 Local Shared Account Grant from the Pennsylvania Financing Authority and a $34,000 grant from the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

The memorial, which was originally dedicated in May 1989 by then-Bethlehem Steel CEO Walt Williams, began as an idea from a veterans committee within the company.

“We’ve been delighted to coordinate with the Redevelopment Authority and the memorial committee to continue honoring the veteran steelworkers of our country,” said Kara Mohsinger, president and CEO of NMIH. “Preserving our history, honoring the heroes who fought for the United States, and keeping the legacy of steelworkers alive for future generations is integral to our mission and we look forward to continuing that tradition.”

The memorial is part of a larger outdoor expansion for the museum.

The 17,000-square-foot, $275,000 project will feature artifacts from Bethlehem Steel and the mining industry, telling the story of how raw materials are converted into finished steel products.

The project broke ground last month and is expected to be completed next month.


Nonprofit matches vets, farms for training

Mimi Thomas-Brooker is a master connector.

Through online searches, phone calls, word-of-mouth and a lot of grit, she coordinates farming apprenticeships for veterans seeking a second career.

In 2016, she founded the nonprofit Troops to Tractors to organize what she had been doing throughout her career both as a military spouse and a civilian – connecting people to people, and people to resources.

Thomas-Brooker has allies all over the state, farmers ready to share their expertise with a veteran for a year or so, while gaining a dependable employee in return. And veterans who may have little experience with commercial farming are paid to learn while they work side-by-side with a farmer.

“What the farmer gets is a mature, dependable, skilled employee who has some life experience, who is ready to accomplish the mission in taking direction from the mentor. Meanwhile the veteran is getting the opportunity to learn without having to get a degree,” said Thomas-Brooker, who has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, both in music education, from East Carolina University.

Troops to Tractors operates under the umbrella of PA Veterans Farming Project, a nonprofit founded at the same time as the program. Sponsored by the Westmoreland County Conservation District, the project connects veterans and their spouses with marketing resources, on-the-job training and funding opportunities for their farming operations.

Veterans can tap the GI Bill to get credit for the apprenticeships through a process managed by the state Department of Education, where state workers talk to interested farmers to come up with an educational program, including details like what the veteran will learn and how long it will take. They also visit the farms and make sure there is an educational benefit for the veteran.

“They determine they’ll spend this much time on animal husbandry, this much time on business skills, this much time on personnel management and fiscal operation,” Thomas-Brooker said. “It’s very specific, and yet they’re skills you’d need in any agribusiness. That’s what we look for in a farmer – someone to teach them how to run their own business.”

Seeds begin to sprout

So far, six farms in Pennsylvania are approved to employ a veteran in the Troops to Tractors program, and one currently is hosting a veteran. Five veterans either completed or are in some stage of completing the program.

But veterans must do their due diligence before committing to an apprenticeship program, especially if they have no experience with farming.

“We ask them, ‘Have you talked to any farmers at a farmer’s market?’ We encourage them to explore and volunteer on a farm,” Thomas-Brooker said.

It’s important for aspiring farmers to explore different types of farming to determine their focus in an apprenticeship, which usually lasts between 12 and 18 months, Thomas-Brooker said.

Even among the approved Troops to Tractors farms, there are various types of farming represented. The Miller Plant Farm in Spring Garden Township, York County produces vegetables, flowers and produce for gardeners and commercial farmers. An equine farm called Woerth it Hallow in Colerain Township, Lancaster County, rescues horses that would have been slaughtered. Veterans and people with disabilities can visit and work there for therapeutic reasons.

Forever Heart Farm LLC, in Bradford County, focuses on raising heritage breeds, or traditional livestock breeds that were kept by America’s forefathers but have since declined as a result of industrial farming. Forever Heart Farm is currently in talks with the Department of Education to become a host farm for veterans participating in Troops to Tractors.

At the end of an apprenticeship, veterans can choose to either continue working on the farm, or branch out to start their own operations. In order to take part, host farms must have adequate resources to hire and pay the apprentice a stipend.

Throughout her time as a military spouse, Thomas-Brooker worked for the Marine Corps’ Family Readiness Program, where she assisted with community services like parent support, education and communication, with the goal of keeping military families healthy and happy so that the enlisted spouses and parents could focus on their jobs.

After her husband, Michael, retired from the Marines about 10 years ago, the couple moved to Greensburg, Westmoreland County where he accepted a job working with disabled veterans, while Thomas-Brooker took a job with the Westmoreland Conservation District.

“We looked at doing something with veteran farming,” she said. But the ball didn’t start rolling right away.

She eventually took a job with the Westmoreland County Department of Human Services, where she currently works as communications director. She started the PA Veterans Farming Project in 2016 after receiving some grant money from her former employer, the conservation district.

Since then, the organization has been buoyed by grants from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, some chapters of the Disabled American Veterans and donations from private supporters. It has no full-time employees but has a three-person volunteer advisory board.

“Mimi has helped us tremendously with making contacts across the ag industry and with veterans. What she gets done in the time she’s allocated is impressive. She’s an incredible woman,” said Robert Mowery III, founder of Forever Heart Farm.

The willingness in the ag community to help one another is at the heart of Troops to Tractors.

“The ag community is tightknit,” Thomas-Brooker said. “They’re all supportive of each other. One farmer says, ‘you should trust this guy.’ Another says, ‘I’m looking out for you, let’s find you a good position.’ It’s not unlike the military.”