The California Department of General Services (DGS) presented the 18th annual State Agency Recognition Awards for leadership in contracting with disabled veteran businesses at a ceremony yesterday in Sacramento.
As the state advocate for Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBEs), CalVet Secretary Dr. Vito Imbasciani awarded the John K. Lopez DVBE awards for business and individual excellence.
The John K. Lopez award for Business Excellence was presented to Erick Castro, a combat-disabled veteran of the Iraq War and owner of KSE Construction.
Castro is an amputee, who was medically retired due to catastrophic injuries resulting from an ambush attack during the war. He was awarded the Purple Heart and separated from the Army with little idea how he was going to make a living. But he went back to school and obtained his undergraduate degree in business management and an advanced degree in accounting, which allowed him to start his construction company in 2013.
Through his own experiences as a veteran, business owner and DVBE program participant, Castro made the decision to ensure his company would hire veterans first from day one. He provides a work environment that not only adheres to ADA regulations, but also provides the opportunity to be flexible with newly returning veterans who may have personal situations that are not typically encountered in the workplace.
Castro documents any special needs a veteran may have in the workplace and strives to ensure the company is accommodating those needs whenever they can.
Tanya Little, Business and Development Program Manager for the state of California, received the John K. Lopez award for Individual Excellence.
Little serves as the state’s key advisor and liaison between state agencies and business groups. She has shown dedication to community engagement and has conducted strategic research to identify untapped business opportunities for veterans.
She often counsels the owners of disabled, veteran-owned businesses and emerging small and underrepresented businesses on how better to compete for state contracts. She also listens to the challenges facing DVBEs and state departments, and then seeks to identify ways the state can overcome those challenges.
Time and again, she has displayed a commitment to the DVBE community and she’s become one of the state’s most-committed DVBE advocates.
These contributions continue to enhance the legacy of Marine Corps Korean War veteran John K. Lopez, for whom the awards are named.
Lopez was one of the first to recognize the positive effect these entrepreneurial programs could have on service-disabled veterans.
In the spring of 1986, he and fellow members of the Disabled American Veterans chapter in Palo Alto, created the foundation for what the DVBE program has become today. They knew that service-disabled veterans and former prisoners of war could supplement their disability income and increase their quality of life through meaningful commercial and even personal connections with the state.
Lopez and others advocated to create opportunities at all levels of government for these veterans to achieve and maintain their rehabilitation through enterprise development and managed employment.
Thanks to the efforts of Lopez and others, California’s DVBEs compete more fairly and effectively for a portion of the state’s contracting dollars while sharing their expertise with the citizens of California.
“Today, veteran-owned small businesses and disabled-veteran business enterprises are essential to the good health of our economy and are a principal source of new jobs in California,” Imbasciani said. “We strive to recognize these individuals whose commitment and service maintain the momentum of this program.”
The DVBE program was created to ensure at least 3 percent of all state contracting dollars are awarded to DVBEs. That 3 percent means millions of dollars annually go directly to veteran-owned businesses, enabling them to create jobs and expand throughout California.
“I am proud to note that the state of California has met or exceeded that 3 percent goal for each of the past five years,” Imbasciani said. “CalVet nearly quadrupled that goal this past year by spending 11.82 percent of our contracting budget doing business with the veterans we serve.”
“Our team at CalVet, including our Deputy Secretary for Veterans Services, Keith Boylan, our Assistant Deputy Michael Magee, our program manager for DVBE outreach Jamie Jones, as well as her staff, have gone to great lengths to ensure that California veterans get a shot at doing business with the state.
“Additionally, this unit is pleased to work with Director Daniel Kim’s team at the Department of General Services including Angel Carrera, the Chief of Certification and Outreach for the Procurement Division.
“DGS is one of many state agencies who have made the DVBE program so successful.”