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HCC to offer free entrepreneurship program for veterans


A new entrepreneurship program that is geared toward military veterans will be locally implemented with the help of Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.

The nonprofit Veterans Florida, which developed the entrepreneurship program, was developed itself by the Florida Legislature in an effort to create more job opportunities for vets in the state.

As a network partner of Veterans Florida, Hillsborough Community College will offer training and entrepreneurial education to veterans living in Florida who aim to open their own businesses through the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program.

HCC has the distinction of being the only community college selected as a network partner of the program, which will also be implemented at the University of West Florida, University of North Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Atlantic University. The colleges and universities will allocate existing small business development resources to the development and implementation of the program.

“Entrepreneurs fuel our growing economy,” HCC president Dr. Ken Atwater noted in a news release. “This program will help our service men and women get equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to be successful in the global marketplace."

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program is provided free of charge to Florida resident veterans who are active duty or who have been honorably discharged; $1 million in program funding was granted from the Florida Legislature. Vets who plan to relocate to Florida to pursue entrepreneurship are also eligible for the program.

Program participants begin training with an online entrepreneurial development-training course before moving on to on-site training at one of the five partner institutions, including HCC. The program covers travel expenses for the in-class portion of training.

During in-class training, veterans will have the opportunity to work with local business leaders and entrepreneurs to further develop and examine business plans.

Following the intensive, face-to-face phase of the program, veterans will receive continued mentorship as they grow and lauch their businesses, as well as follow-up support from Florida Small Business Development Council business consultants.

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program host partner, the University of West Florida, will oversee the program from its Florida SBDC Network and Military and Veterans Resource Center. At HCC, the program will be administered through the college’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Training.

“We are pleased to build upon the programs that we currently offer to the thousands of veterans we serve each through the Veterans Florida Program at HCC,” Atwater said.

The education received through the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program “will empower the next generation of great veteran entrepreneurs to make lasting contributions to the state’s economy,” says the group’s executive director, Bobby Carbonell, by offering veterans in the state “access to high value, entrepreneurship education through our world-class state universities and colleges.”

The Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program website is set to launch in February 2016; interested veterans can visit the website to apply for the program or contact (850) 898-3489 or info@FloridaVetBiz.org for more information.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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