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Supporting our Veterans

Veteran's Day, which we observed earlier this month, is always a special day for me as I reflect not only on my time serving our country as a United States Marine, but also as I think about all the men and women I know who have served. At Mr. Rooter, we take seriously the opportunity we have to support veterans by providing opportunities for them when it's time to make the transition from military life to the civilian workforce.

On Nov. 6, 2013, I had the privilege to provide testimony on behalf of The Dwyer Group and the International Franchise Association before the Senate Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs, chaired by Congressman Bill Flores (R-Texas). The topic of the panel was "Texas' Innovative Approaches to Jobs and Employment for Veterans." As a salute to our brave men and women who served in the Armed Forces and as a reiteration of our commitment to continued support, the following is an excerpt of my statement to the congressional panel:

Taking care of our veterans who have faithfully served our country is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, as is the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative, or VetFran.

In 1985, I received my commission as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps where I served for eight years and achieved the rank of Captain while on active duty. During my service, I had the honor to become the first female platoon commander for my unit. My service took me around the world, including North Carolina, California, the Philippines and Japan. When I returned home to Texas I made the decision to go into franchising. After I sold my businesses, the corporate office asked me to join the headquarters as the director of franchise operations and I eventually becoming the brand's president. I came to Mr. Rooter in October of 2006 to proudly serve the 40-year-old company as its first female president.

Watching the events of the Gulf War unfold in 1990, the president and founder of my parent company, The Dwyer Group, Don Dwyer Sr., a veteran himself, decided he had to do more for our service men and women. He considered the traditional ways of support, but saw nothing that captured the spirit on the scale he envisioned. A short time later, while attending the IFA's 1991 annual convention, he conceived the ideal solution: help our veterans achieve the American Dream by owning their own franchised small business.

Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the VetFran initiative was reenergized by Dina Dwyer Owens, the CEO and chairwoman of The Dwyer Group. VetFran now boasts more than 600 franchise systems participating offering veterans discounts, incentives to help them in small business ownership and connecting them to jobs throughout the United States.

In November 2011, Michelle Obama partnered with the IFA to launch Operation Enduring Opportunity. She was looking to the business community to help hire and recruit 100,000 veterans as business owners and team members by 2014. Our franchising community pledged to hire 80,000 veterans. To date, the program has ensured that 151,557 veterans and military spouses have been hired through franchising. Also, 5,192 veterans have come into small business ownership through this program. Veterans looking for opportunities in franchising can begin by logging onto to VetFran.com to start their journey. VetFran.com includes a veteran tool kit, information on franchising, and a veteran's job bank to help match veterans to employers.

Since 2002, The Dwyer Group had brought approximately 300 veterans into small business ownership with more than $1.8 million in discounts awarded to veterans. When Operation Enduring Opportunity was launched we pledged to hire 300 veterans throughout the United States. To date our franchisees combined with our corporate headquarters have hired more than 624 veterans.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I became accustomed to following the systems of the military and it is has directly helped me succeed in franchising where systems are the foundation of success. That is why I believe that franchising offers significant advantages over other types of business-particularly for military veterans. Franchising allows you to be in business for yourself, but not by yourself. By choosing franchising, an entrepreneur not only has immediate access to support, training and expertise from the franchisor but is also buying the rights to use a valuable and recognized name brand. Furthermore, the franchisor provides the entrepreneur with a business plan and operations manual that were developed to help guide and direct the successful operation of the business. Combined with ongoing support and teamwork, the franchise business model gives entrepreneurs a solid foundation to be successful and a leg up on the competition.

It is estimated that in the next five years more than a million service men and women will transition out of the military. These men and women are looking forward to rejoining their families, going back to school or starting their own business. With the diversity of jobs in the military, veterans reenter civilian life with the skills needed to succeed in franchising whether it's as a small business owner or an employee of a franchisee. Their Military Occupation Specialty, which is the military's way to identify an individual's particular specialty, can help our returning service men and women identify the best franchise system that meets their skills and training.

Helping fellow veterans make the transition to civilian life and realize their dream of small business ownership is one of my passions. When I served as the chairwoman of the IFA's VetFran Committee, I worked with other members of the IFA and VetFran participating companies to encourage more systems to offer veterans discounts and benefits when purchasing a franchise as well as provide employment opportunities for our returning veterans. In that two-year period we grew participation in the program by 79 percent and launched Operation Enduring Opportunity.

I ask this committee to help pass legislation to aid our veterans' investment in their future. The Help Veterans Own Franchises Act (HVOFA) introduced by Representative Aaron Schock (R-Ill) and Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the 112th Congress would have provided significant incentives for veterans to own their own franchise business. This legislation establishes a tax credit for franchise businesses offering qualified veterans a discounted initial franchise fee. The tax credit would amount to 50 percent of the total franchise fee discount offered by the franchisor, capped at $25,000 per unit, and also provides a tax credit to the veteran for the remaining initial franchise fee paid. Enactment of this tax credit will encourage economic growth and create more jobs.

Our veterans deserve this chance after so faithfully serving our county. IFA is engaged with members of Congress to reintroduce the HVOFA in the 113th Congress. Franchising has shown its commitment to hiring veterans and veterans hire veterans. Let's help get more veterans into small business ownership and provide more jobs here in Texas and our great nation. Let's give our veterans more than an ovation; let's give them a vocation.