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Business advisor helps veterans start small businesses

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Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Jim Cassidy said he likes his moniker, even it’s a bit long.

“They call me ‘the guy from below I-40’ whenever there are meetings in Albuquerque,” he said.

Cassidy is the veterans business advisor for the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services in Roswell. His office is located on South Main Street just south of the Chaves County Administration Center.

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Cassidy has worked for the state of New Mexico since 2013. He started out in Clovis as a veterans outreach specialist. His father served in the U.S. Army in World War II and his oldest brother served in Vietnam.

After the job in Clovis, Cassidy was transferred to the Rural Veterans Coordination Program, a two-year pilot program to see how well Veterans Affairs is doing in rural America. That job brought him back to Roswell, where he had previously worked at three different private-sector jobs at the air center.

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“That program ended in September 2016, which brought me into the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC),” Cassidy said. “Due to my experience in running my own business and running three other businesses, I had the experience.”

With that new job assignment, he had the opportunity to move to the hustle and bustle of Albuquerque, but Cassidy opted to stay in Roswell so he could live and work closer to the clients that he serves.

He has a busy travel schedule, visiting small communities like Lovington and Jal to meet face-to-face with veterans who may do best working for themselves instead of somebody else.

He also travels to Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases to let young servicemen and women know about opportunities they may have aside from entering the workforce as an employee.

Cassidy can relate to life in a small town because he is from Cleveland — not the city in Ohio where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located, but the one in New Mexico that is a blink-of-an-eye between Las Vegas and Taos.

His job is simple, but at once complex: To help veterans either start their own business or buy an existing one.

“The biggest challenges for veterans who start businesses is that their staff may not understand them. They may think you’re too tough on them,” he said. “There is a transition into civilian life.”

To that end, the VBOC provides Boots to Business, a two-step entrepreneurial training program offered to veterans by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Topics included in the course are business concepts, marketing, finance and how to obtain government contracts. There is no cost to veterans for the course.

Cassidy said there are government contracts set aside for disabled veterans, along with franchises that will either wave their franchise fees or discount their fees to veterans.

Another obvious concern for any veteran who wants to start or buy a business is where to get that all-important capital.

“There is a big misconception that the VA has money and can say, ‘Here’s a grant. Start a business,’” he said. “Along with your savings, the finance piece of the course can best explain where to get capital.”

A local resource for small business loans ranging from $200 to $50,000 is WESST, a nonprofit that also offers consulting and training to entrepreneurs.

Cassidy said for anyone to start a business, it is important to know who your competitors are and what is the best location. The VBOC can assist veterans with a developing a business plan at no cost.

“We warn them about people who want to charge them to write a business plan,” he said.

He said another thing that’s important is passion.

Cassidy’s 20 years in the service took him to California, Mississippi, Alaska, Texas and all over the world on short-term assignments.

When he retired in 2004, he wanted to move back to his home state. He settled in Edgewood, where he opened a cafe with his then wife.

Then he moved to Roswell, where his aviation experience led to three consecutive jobs at the Roswell International Air Center.

He worked for Dean Baldwin, AAR Aircraft and Great Southwest Aviation, respectively.

“I ran all of these companies,” he said. “When Great Southwest sold in 2012 I was vice president and general manager.”

Instead of running another aviation business, Cassidy said he wanted to try something new.

“I had 30 years in aviation and felt I was at a Y in the road with my career, so I pursued working for the state,” he said. “It will be five years in September.”

Cassidy is active in the Roswell community. He is involved with Homes for Heroes, the Southeast New Mexico Veteran’s Transportation Network, the Elks Lodge and the Artesia Disabled American Veterans Chapter.

He also is vice chair of the Chaves County Health Council.

Cassidy wants all veterans in the area to know that a veterans’ resource event will be held at UNMU-Portales Ball Room on Mach 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Over 40 agencies will be available in a “one-stop shop” setting to cover topics such as health and education benefits, employment, pensions and how to overcome the struggle to fit back in after leaving the military.

Roswell is fortunate to have someone with Cassidy’s knowledge to help veterans succeed in civilian life.

“I’ve seen successes with the direction the economy is going,” he said. “Small business owners, veterans included, have a lot more confidence.”

To contact Cassidy, call 575-624-6002 or email JamesM.Cassidy@state.nm.us.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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