From serving one's country to customer service
Newly formed Chamber of Commerce supports veterans

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

May 28, 2016

Veterans Electric owner Scott Flaugher works on a portable power generator Friday at the Wisconsin Harley-Davidson dealership in Oconomowoc.
Ryan Billingham/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC - As an Air Force veteran and a small business owner, Scott Flaugher sees the value of working in numbers. When he learned about the newly formed Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, he was eager to sign on to get help affecting legislative changes and to support other veterans.

Flaugher started Veterans Electric LLC in 2010 in Colgate as a service-disabled veteran business in order to be eligible for bidder’s preference, along with minority-owned contractors. He said the state rule allowing for service disabled veteran businesses to get bidder’s preference no longer exists. Flaugher hopes that with the strength of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce behind him, they will be successful in creating change.

The chamber was started in August 2015 by Saul Newton, himself an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and is originally from Waukesha. When he moved back to the area after his service, Newton said he attended the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and wanted to work with fellow veterans. 

“I looked around and saw this was something that wasn’t being done in Wisconsin or really in any other state,” Newton said of a veterans-focused chamber of commerce, adding that veterans are an important part of Wisconsin’s economy.

During the first eight months of operation for Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Newton said “the response has been absolutely overwhelming.” The chamber has about 40 dues-paying members that include veteran- owned businesses and businesses that support veterans. “The response and interest we have gotten is overwhelmingly positive,” Newton said. “The most common question I get is why an organization didn’t exist already.”

Newton said veterans are twice as likely to start their own businesses as people with no military experience. The negative aspect, he said, is that “they are far more likely to fail within 10 years.”

In fact, Newton said about 93 percent will fail within the first 10 years. That is partially attributed to their military service, which prevented the veterans from building a professional network, as well as lack of access to financial resources because they do not have much of a financial history.

Connecting business communities

Newton’s goal for the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce is to connect veterans with dedicated resources, to facilitate networking and to host educational events.

“It’s really about connecting the broader business community with the veterans business community,” Newton said.

Dirk Debbink, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and CEO and chairman of MSI General in Oconomowoc, also believes in the value of having a force united behind veterans.

“It’s an answer to a longstanding concern of many of us in the area that we are missing an opportunity and that is to connect organizations to veterans in a meaningful way,” Debbink said. In addition, Debbink said he appreciates how the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce brings attention to companies that are veteran owned and veteran-led.

Veterans have many great attributes, such as they are disciplined, well trained, drug free and have leadership skills, which people in the private sector often lack, especially at a young age, Debbink said.

Flaugher said the general public should be interested in the work of the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce and its members.

“I would hope more people care about it, and I would hope that enough people are personally affected either by having a relative or a friend that was in the military and in a position of needing a job or trying to adjust from coming back that they would support an organization like the chamber of commerce who is desperately trying to help these people integrate back into society,” he said.

Newton agrees.

“I think that when it comes to working with veterans and including veterans in the business community, the simple fact of the matter, the qualities that are taught, instilled — the qualities that make us veterans are the qualities that make us ideal entrepreneurs workers and employers,” he said.

At a glance

What: Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Where: 5027 W. North Ave., Milwaukee
Yearly dues: start at $250, but with discounts for nonprofit organizations
Contact: 920-288-2646,
More info:,