Electric owner Scott Flaugher works on a portable power
generator Friday at the Wisconsin Harley-Davidson dealership
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
goal for the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce is to connect
veterans with dedicated resources, to facilitate networking and to
host educational events.
really about connecting the broader business community with the
veterans business community,” Newton said.
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.
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
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.
said the general public should be interested in the work of the
Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce and its members.
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.
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
Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Where: 5027 W. North Ave., Milwaukee
Yearly dues: start at $250, but with discounts for nonprofit