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Veterans Find Opportunities in Greater San Marcos, TX

The San Marcos region has found a niche as a haven for U.S. military veterans. In fact, in FY 2016, $10.4 million in Veterans Affairs benefits came into Hays County and there were nearly 14,000 veterans living in the county. As we approach the end of Military Appreciation Month, we’re taking a look at some of the ways the greater San Marcos region is working to fill that expectation.

With proximity to Lackland AFB (60 miles), Randolph AFB (40 miles), Camp Bullis (50 miles), Fort Sam Houston (45 miles), Fort Hood (110 miles), and “military-friendly” Texas State University, the Greater San Marcos area is primed for veterans as they transition to civilian life.

Texas State University participates in two key federal programs for colleges educating service members, including Principles of Excellence and the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding (DoD MOU). The University provides career and vocational support through participation in the Military Voluntary Education Review (MVER) among other resources such as those provided through the Veteran Services Office. It also charters a student organization dedicated to veterans, Veterans Alliance of Texas State (VATS), one of the first Student Veterans of America chapters to exist. The University is also consistently one of the top participants of the Hazelwood Act.

Last year, the White House mentioned Texas State University as being a key player in President Obama’s TechHire Initiative—launched with the goal of filling America’s 500,000 vacant tech jobs. The university is working with Microsoft, Google and IBM to offer an accelerated training program for veterans and low-income residents.

Employers in the area also make an active effort to hire veterans. One of the area’s largest employers, Amazon, actively recruits U.S. military veterans and military spouses to join the organization, and hundreds have careers in its fulfillment network. Amazon employs over 10,000 military veterans, and last year pledged to hire and train an additional 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. Once veterans and military spouses join the Amazon team, there are several programs that help them transition more easily into the civilian workforce and connect them with an internal network for mentoring and support.

In addition to the job opportunities available in the area, the crystalline waters of the San Marcos River run through the heart of the charming community providing a serene setting full of outdoor activities for all.

History of Veteran-Friendliness in Greater San Marcos

When the Iraq war was about to end, veteran Jude Prather (and current Hays County Veteran Services Officer) saw that San Marcos’ strategic location and “college town” status put the San Marcos area in an ideal position to catch the huge wave of veterans looking to take advantage of the new Post 9-11 GI Bill. In turn, it could bring more than a half a million a month in cash flow to San Marcos if just 500 veterans decided to use their GI Bill at Texas State University. To attract those veterans, Prather and others drafted “The Veteran’s Initiative,” preparing the area for enormous potential economic benefit.

Today, veteran benefit policies that were enacted locally have been adopted across the nation – such as one of the first Veteran’s Treatment Courts in Texas – which offers tailored probation that keeps in mind veterans’ potential or existing issues with drugs or alcohol use because of PTSD. San Marcos also waives all utilities for veterans if they prove honorable discharge. 

Veteran Pilots Transition to Commercial Airlines

This past January, we were proud to help announce San Diego-based Coast Flight Training’s second location for its airline flight-training program at the San Marcos Regional Airport, which is located in San Marcos and Caldwell County. Team GSMP, along with the team at Texas Aviation Partners, started working with the company a few years ago and it was rewarding to see this vision become a reality.

Led by Coast Flight President Bryan Simmons, LtCol USMC (Ret), the company’s recently established San Marcos facility will focus on training U.S. military helicopter pilots to help transition them into in-demand careers as civilian airline pilots for the nation’s top airlines.

In addition to the assets at the San Marcos Regional Airport and business-friendly environment of the area, the company seeks to capitalize on San Marcos’ large veteran population to help them make the transition into in-demand commercial aviation careers.

Since opening their new location in January 2017, Coast Flight has rapidly grown from four planes, four instructors, and two operations personnel, to 23 airplanes, 11 employees, and 65 trainees. The company has already transitioned 12 graduates to Envoy Air, Inc., where they will begin their commercial airline pilot careers. Coast Flight’s new location will bring up to 40 jobs to the San Marcos region.

At Coast Flight Training’s Ribbon Cutting and Open House on May 19, City of San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides said:

“Companies like Coast Flight, which we are welcoming to our airport and our city, provide the rigorous training needed to prepare aspiring commercial pilots to take our passengers safely to their destinations.  But it is the veterans, many of whom have flown missions in the most dangerous flying conditions imaginable, that provide the dedication and most self-less service that make them the most deserving of our trust when we board their aircraft as passengers. Coast Flight is training some of the best pilots in the country, and they’re doing it right here in San Marcos.”

We completely agree, Mayor Thomaides!

Veteran Entrepreneurs

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has many resources for new business owners. They currently have two free workshops coming up just for veterans.

Understanding your credit report is a critical first step when one is looking at launching their business. The SBA will hold a workshop for local veterans in search of more resources for credit reporting on June 15 at 10 a.m.

There will also be a Boots to Business Reboot two-day training program June 26-27 that provides participants an overview of business ownership as a career vocation, an outline and knowledge of the components of a business plan, a practical exercise in opportunity recognition, and an introduction to available public and private resources.

You can learn more about these events here.

Located here in San Marcos, the Texas State University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) works with existing and startup small businesses to help them grow and compete in today’s global economy. SBDCs are available to provide assistance during every phase of the business life cycle. The improvements that result from their direct support of client's activities lead to job creation, investments, and economic growth for communities throughout central Texas. They do offer counseling for a wide variety of areas of business, including veteran-owned.

This information scraped the surface of the role of veterans in the Greater San Marcos region and how the region supports those veterans.

Thank you to our veterans for their service! 

Photo: Natalie Nielson, Director of Pilot Recruitment for Envoy Air, Inc., Adriana Cruz, President of Greater San Marcos Partnership, Bryan Simmons, President of Coast Flight Training, Caldwell County Commissioner Ed Theriot, Caldwell County Judge Ken Schawe, and Dan Verda, General Manager and Director of Operations of Coast Flight Training, in front of the Envoy Embraer 175 during the Coast Flight Training Ribbon Cutting at the San Marcos Regional Airport in Caldwell County on May 19, 2017.

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