EDISON, NJ — The New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce (NJSVCC) last week met with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19th L.D) to discuss some key issues of concern.

“The goal of the organization is to provide economic opportunities for veterans and their spouses,” said Colonel Jeff Cantor, founder, and CEO of NJSVCC. “The need for this meeting was due to needed legislation to help the veterans' community.”

At the face-to-face meeting held in Woodbridge on July 31, Cantor, along with the organization's President Francisco Cortes had the opportunity to discuss key issues of concern with the Speaker.

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According to Cantor, the veteran's business community is looking for the New Jersey State Legislature to support bill S1866/A4042, which would enact a disabled veteran price preference of 10-percent on state contracts and allow disabled veteran-owned businesses the opportunity to compete in the open bid process in the state. As of press time, S1866 passed committee and was scheduled to go to appropriations but has been delayed due to COVID-19; A4042 has yet to go to committee as meetings have not yet taken place.

“Thirteen other states have already enacted this legislation and it is making a difference in veterans' lives,” Cantor said. “Currently, these disabled veteran business owners are significantly disadvantaged.”

Representatives for the NJSVCC also discussed with the Speaker their thoughts on holding state agencies accountable for implementing the 3-percent disabled veteran set-aside law; according to Cantor, this law, which has been on the books since 2015, has not been working properly.

“Currently, the only state entities that have enacted their program are the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJ EDA), the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJ SDA), and the NJ Turnpike Authority,” he said. “We need traction with all state agencies to follow this law and hope Speaker Coughlin will help get us traction with all of the state’s departments, agencies, authorities, and commissions.”

During the meeting, the organization's representatives also had the opportunity to discuss with Coughlin the possibility of holding prime vendors in the state accountable for meeting their Small Business Enterprise (SBE) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB) goals on all state projects.

Right now, said Cantor, prime vendors only have to reach out and do a good faith effort to find veterans businesses for subcontracting opportunities. If they do not meet their goals, they are not penalized for it.

“Currently, there is little that can be done to enforce this law…. We want all prime vendors to take this requirement seriously and the chamber can help them find qualified veteran businesses as subs for their projects,” he said, adding, “We would hope that legislation would be passed to create a liquidated damages clause in all state contracts so that SBEs and DVOBs have a chance on procurement with the state.”

Additionally, during the meeting, the reps for NJSVCC also discussed with Coughlin the need for 'one universal registration portal for all businesses.'

“It is extremely difficult and inefficient to do business in the state of New Jersey. We would like the state to implement a universal certification/qualification portal so that a business can upload their documents one time, and get certified with all state agencies,” Cantor said, adding, “This would help all businesses, especially small businesses, considerably.”

“We owe it to our veterans who have sacrificed so much to give them a hand up when they return and wish to start a business,” Coughlin stated following the meeting. “Our government assists veterans in obtaining employment in government, but can and should do more to help with the private sector opportunities.” 

“We are very thankful to the Speaker for his willingness to help the veterans' community,” added Cantor.

The New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce is a 501c6 organization open to all veteran-owned businesses with a mission focused on education, veteran business advocacy, networking, and procurement and supplier diversity events. The organization's goal is to make New Jersey’s economy fairer to veteran-owned and service-connected veteran-owned businesses, as well as veteran job creation. For more information, visit www.njveteranschamber.com.