WASHINGTON — Officials from the PenFed Foundation announced $1 million in seed capital for veteran-owned business startups at their annual gala on Wednesday night, part of the group’s newly launched Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program.

Foundation officials will select three to five businesses annually for the funding, with returns from any investments being funneled back into the program. Organizers are also promising participating veterans will have access to the group’s network of more than 1,700 business partners as they work to expand their businesses.

The move comes just a few weeks after a study from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found more veterans are considering launching their own businesses due to dissatisfaction with the civilian workforce, and as lawmakers consider new legislation to help get those veterans help with starting those businesses.

The new foundation seed money comes from a $500,000 donation from Allied Solutions (CEO Pete Hilger and his wife Debbie were honored with the foundation’s Corporate Hero Award on Wednesday) and a matching contribution from the PenFed Credit Union.

“It’s tough when you get out of the military,” said Pete Hilger, an Air Force veteran. “Anytime we can give people who have made that level of sacrifice an opportunity to be successful, that’s really what drives us.”

U.S. Census officials estimate there are more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses in the country. James Schenck, president and CEO of PenFed Credit Union, said the move to help those start-ups succeed “is not only the right thing to do, it is good for the economy, and will create new jobs and help businesses thrive.”

More information on the new program is available at the foundation’s website.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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