(St. Petersburg, FL — June 22) — As July 4th approaches, with unemployment rates for some groups of veterans hovering over 18%, Valpak and other Bay Area IFA Member companies. the International Franchise Association (IFA), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative will launch new tools and resources June 28, 2012 in 12 cities to help veterans access opportunities in small business ownership and employment including a new free online Veterans Franchise Toolkit and a new Mentor Network to connect veterans to business leaders and jobs.

A Tampa Bay Regional launch event including IFA, VFW and business leaders will take place June 28, 2012 at 10:30 am at the Valpak Manufacturing Center, One Valpak Avenue North, St. Petersburg 33716.


Some of the Speakers and Guests:

  • Hon. Bill Foster, Mayor of St. Petersburg
  • Joe Bourdow, CFE - IFA Board Member and Chair of IFA Diversity Institute
  • Rick McElwain, CFE- Vice President Valpak
  • Lonnie Helgerson, CFE - CEO Helgerson Franchise Group & Author “Five Pennies”& member of the VetFran Mentor Advisory Group
  • Scott Ritchey, COO Sprigster “Boost a Hero Crowdfunding”
  • Pat Deering, Owner FranNet of Greater Tampa Bay
  • Elizabeth Hittos, District Director Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis
  • District Nine Representatives Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Special guest: Larry Colley Tampa Bay Aire Serv franchisee

Larry Colley is a 21-year veteran of the United States Army. He joined the Army at the age of 17 and spent six years in the 82nd Airborne Division and fifteen years with the U.S. Army Special Forces. He is a veteran of the Gulf War and Somalia. Larry’s wife is also a veteran and his oldest son Justin is presently serving in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division. Larry is a brand new Aire Serv owner in Hillsborough County, Florida. He is the first veteran to get funded through Boost a Hero, an online crowdfunding platform allowing veterans to raise funds to open a franchise through social media.

The Veterans Franchise (VetFran) Toolkit is designed to foster access to franchise employment and ownership opportunities for U.S. veterans and military spouses. The franchise industry has committed to hiring as team members and recruiting as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses, plus 5,000 wounded warriors. Over 6,200 veterans and spouses have started careers in franchising since the campaign launched last year.

The VetFran Toolkit includes a Franchising 101 online course, a skills and attributes assessment, a finance assessment, and partner links. U.S. military veterans and spouses will also be able to access the VetFran Mentor Network and be connected to franchise business leaders through the Toolkit. The franchise leaders comprising the Mentor Network will share their knowledge of and experience in franchising with veterans in addition to any other professional guidance they are comfortable giving.

The VetFran Mentor Network Advisory Board will lead the volunteer network, including:

  • Gordon Logan, Founder & CEO, Sport Clips, Inc. (Chairman) (USAF)
  • Melanie Bergeron, Chair of the Board, Two Men & A Truck
  • Sean Collins, Vice President, GI Jobs and MilitaryFranchising.com (USN)
  • Jerry Darnell, Darnell & Associates (US Army)
  • Ted Daywalt, President & CEO, VetJobs.com (USN)
  • Chuck Southern, VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
  • Greg Tanner, National Director of Franchise Sales, Aaron’s (US Army)
  • Mary Kennedy Thompson, President & CEO, Mr. Rooter (USMC)
  • Bob Wallace, Executive Director, The Veterans of Foreign Wars (USMC)
  • Lonnie Helgerson, CEO Helgerson Franchise Group
  • Skills testing firm Caliper Corporation, and BoeFly, the online finance marketplace, contributed services at no charge to power the Toolkit.

With its training, structure, systems and focus on operational excellence, franchising can provide an ideal career path for returning veterans to become leaders in the civilian economy. According to the U.S. Census, there are over 66,000 veteran-owned franchise businesses in the U.S. IFA’s VetFran strategic initiative was launched in 1991 to help Gulf War veterans transition.

“As we continue to work hard each and every day to extend career opportunities to our nation’s veterans, we commend our members who are participating in the VetFran Toolkit launch events and volunteering in the VetFran Mentor Network Ñ they are setting the right example for our industry and our entire nation,” said Steve Caldeira, CFE, IFA’s President & CEO. “As we celebrate Independence Day, let us remember that our freedom comes at a price. Now we need to enable our nation’s veterans to fulfill their dreams and find career opportunities here at home.”

Launch events will also take place in Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Houston, Miami/South Florida, Minneapolis, Nashville, Norfolk, Austin, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit www.VetFran.com.