Winning Battles for Vetpreneurs

Returning GIs access capital and other support to grow thriving businesses on the homefront

John James

John E. James

In Baghdad, Capt. John E. James led two U.S. Army aviation platoons in combat operations. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, James’s primary duties were those of platoon leader and battle captain/assistant operations officer. Working with another assistant and under a commander, James planned, managed, and synchronized the deployment of 24 Apache and 10 Black Hawk helicopters. A graduate of West Point, James has flown nearly 1,200 hours and been awarded several combat medals, but he says his greatest achievement is bringing all his soldiers home alive and physically unharmed in 2009.

When James, 31, was honorably discharged in February, he went to work for his family’s Detroit-based 150-employee business, James Group International (No. 81 on the BE Industrial/Service companies list with $30.1 million in revenues). The company, which does logistics work for Ford, General Motors, and Toyota, was started by James’s father in 1971. About a year away from completing his master’s in supply chain management from Pennsylvania State University, James has already increased JGI’s efficiency. For instance, he implemented JGI’s enterprise resource planning for information technology, or ERP/IT, system in conjunction with Ford, giving the automaker greater visibility of product in the supply chain.

James, vice president of operations, joined JGI to fulfill his lifelong dream of following in his father’s footsteps. “I flew halfway around the world and was blessed with the opportunity to help defend those in a foreign country who could not defend themselves. I felt that it was past time to devote myself in similar fashion to the beleaguered communities in my hometown of Detroit.”

James is not alone. Many veterans are exploring business opportunities as a means of self-sufficiency and economic development in their homeland. African American military servicemen and -women account for about one out of every 10 black-owned companies. Veterans of all ethnicities own 2.4 million businesses, generating total sales of $1.2 trillion and paying 5.8 million employees.

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