PANAMA CITY — With an abundance of veterans coming home from overseas and a desire to cultivate stable businesses within Bay County, Panama City officials see potential.
“Over the last few months, I have been trying to entice a number of new restaurants and retailers to come to the city,” said Mike Lane, director of planning and economic development in Panama City. “Quite a few of them have informed me that they are looking for local franchisees to take the lead — as they are not doing new stores with their own funds.”
And some franchises, well, they are looking for a few good men — or women — to run their stores.
Many restaurant companies offer special incentives to help veterans returning from service become franchise owners. Incentives offered by companies vary widely but some can add up to as much as $68,000 toward a first store. Some also require that a percentage of veterans fill management positions.
Veterans are majority owners of 33,864 restaurant businesses and half-owners of 31,805, according to National Restaurant Association analysis of Census Bureau data.
The incentive for large restaurant chains to have veterans running franchises of their business is simple — work ethic. A military background takes work ethic and commitment to job completion to a new level.
“We would love to have a few new restaurants like Bojangles, Checkers, Back Yard Burger and Steak ‘N’ Shake here in the city,” Lane said. “It would be really great if each were owned and run by a local veteran.”
More than 250,000 veterans work in the restaurant industry, National Restaurant Association data shows. Nineteen percent are in management positions, and 14 percent are supervisors. Six percent were active duty within the past year.
Directories of participating businesses can be found on the Vetfran.com website. Several businesses other than restaurants offer programs that reduce franchise fees for veterans, ranging from tax services to tattoo parlors.
The U.S. government also is looking at offering assistance for veterans opening franchises that do not already participate a veteran program.
On Dec. 16, a bill titled the “Veterans Entrepreneurs Act of 2013” was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which gained bipartisan sponsorship, would create a tax credit for veterans and their spouses who purchase a franchise up to 25 percent of the total initial franchise fee, capped at $100,000, if passed.