June 7, 2011


Local Article in the Knoxville News Sentinel

New Group Offers Advice to Veterans

When 10-year Navy veteran Jonathan Williams set out to start his own business, the first thing he did was to reach out to other veteran-owned businesses for guidance and support.

The 38-year-old was surprised to learn there wasn’t an organized group in the state dedicated toward folks like himself.

The idea for the Tennessee Veterans Business Association was born.

There certainly is a market.

In East Tennessee, there are 400 veteran-owned businesses that range from retail to professional services dealing with the Department of Energy.

“It runs the gamut. For any type of service that can be performed, there’s a veteran-owned company that can do it,” Williams said. “We’re a Volunteer state, but we don’t have a veteran’s association.”

Williams started getting the group, which will be set up as a nonprofit, formed in January.

He has already gained the support of the Knoxville Chamber and more than 75 veteran-owned businesses have agreed to join the group.

The association will host its first meeting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday at the Chamber offices at 17 Market Square.

Williams said he expects the group to provide networking and business development opportunities as well as improve legislative and government relations as it lobbies to get more favorable status of veteran-owned businesses.

It has already presented legislation (SB2785/HB 3252) to the state assembly that would give better procurement status for statewide contracts to veteran-owned businesses, Williams said.

The bill, if passed, would complement already existing federal guidelines.

The association would also serve as a place where active duty service members, as well as inactive service members, could get help with employment issues.

“If they are having trouble finding sustainable jobs, we can help them out,” Williams said.

While the group aims to focus on East Tennessee businesses, Williams hopes to eventually expand participation across the state.

Meanwhile, the group is in the process of putting together a directory of veteran-owned companies so Knoxville, state and federal purchasing agents and others can start supporting them.

Williams started his service disabled veteran small business G&P Alliance in November. It is a project management company that specializes in logistics and transportation government contracts.

Williams learned his trade while in the Navy working as a materials and parts manager for the Blue Angels Flight Team.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

For more information about the Tennessee Veterans Business Association, contact Williams at or 865-332-4476.

Business writer and The Bottom Line columnist Carly Harrington may be reached at 865-342-6317 or