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Fort Drum soldiers, veterans learn about planning their own businesses

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FORT DRUM — Dozens of soldiers and veterans heard from and asked questions of state officials at a seminar about the funding and support available for starting businesses.

The officials appeared as a part of the statewide Small Business Outreach Initiative pushed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Among the highlights of the seminar Wednesday morning at Clark Hall was the approximately $100 million in financial and technical assistance offered around the state under a handful of programs.

“We want them to understand there are these resources available,” said Alphonso B. David, the governor’s deputy secretary for civil rights.

Among the agencies represented Wednesday were Empire State Development; the Departments of State, Labor, and Taxation and Finance; the state Liquor Authority and the Workers’ Compensation Board.

While soldiers frequently receive assistance on finding work after leaving the military, the seminar was a chance for soldiers to ask questions of officials representing departments they eventually would work with.

“They’re getting it directly from the source,” said Lorrie S. Guler, transition services manager for the post’s Army Career and Alumni program.

Sgt. Joshua Funk, a member of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, has been operating Blue Dog Lane, a pet-sitting and grooming business on Woodard Lane, Watertown, with his wife, Amy Jo. He said that the business has been running completely out of his paycheck, and that he was most interested in learning about available small-business loans and grants.

“They laid it out quite well,” Sgt. Funk said. He said he likely will leave the Army in the next year.

Another soldier, Staff Sgt. Rogelio Menchaca, of the 63rd Ordnance Battalion, said he and his wife had been making plans to start a Mexican restaurant for the past year and a half. In the two years he has been on post, Sgt. Menchaca, who also goes by Roger, said, the Mexican restaurants he found in the area were not very good.

He said the seminar helped him feel more positive about the development of his business and the entities he would have to work with to get it started.

“Now when I call, I know I’m talking to the right person,” Sgt. Menchaca said.

While Sgt. Menchaca said he had about two and a half years left in his current commitment to the Army, he said he hoped to get the business started before then so “I’m not out there in the unemployment line.”

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