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New Jacksonville chamber opens as business group for veterans, service members, families
Florida Times-Union - 1/25/2021
When Demika Jackson started her own company, she found lots of advice for small businesses but felt like there was still something missing. Talking to other Army veterans like her, she heard the same thing.
“Many of us had the same kind of challenges,” said Jackson, who wanted a place that understood goals and questions common to vets and their families in business.
So, she helped start one.
The Jacksonville Veterans Chamber of Commerce is still settling on a permanent home but has begun reaching out to people with military roots as an affiliate of a national organization with chambers in 20 states.
“You don’t just go in to make change. You find out what the community needs first,” Jackson, the group's president, told a socially-distanced crowd at a City Hall event Friday marking the chamber’s public debut.
In coming weeks, the group will begin offering training sessions for veteran-owned businesses and connecting with veterans, military families and service members transitioning to civilian life.
The U.S. Census Bureau counted 7,130 veteran-owned firms in Jacksonville during a survey in the previous decade, a little over 10 percent of all the firms recorded.
Jackson said a lot of those are small firms whose owners are interested in contracting with government agencies and offering guidance on procurement rules could help a number of those. The Jacksonville organization can also tap into resources of the United States Veterans Chamber of Commerce to help with employment issues, she said.
Jacksonville has a large network of organizations that connect with veterans and service members, and “we have an opportunity here to expand that,” retired Brig. Gen. Mike Fleming — who previously oversaw Deutsche Bank’s global business services center in Jacksonville — told people at chamber debut.
The new organization aims to work cooperatively with groups ranging from the big-dog JAX Chamber to the recently organized Mexican Chamber of Commerce in Jacksonville, whose leadership came to City Hall to show support for the veteran startup.
The veteran chamber effort is envisioned as being more holistic than many bottom-line business organizations, however. It was organized with a “five pillars” approach developed by the United States Veterans Chamber to address concerns of education, employment, wellness and family as well as business.
It's also more diverse than the stereotype of a business group. Board members, who are Black, white and Asian-American, include Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force veterans as well as family of a service member, with the goal of drawing many perspectives.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: New Jacksonville chamber opens as business group for veterans, service members, families
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