While I was in Las Vegas last week at Netroots Nation, I had the opportunity to speak at the 6th Annual National Veteran Small Business Conference & Expo. Each year, it brings together thousands of attendees from Veteran-Owned and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, federal agencies and departments, and prime contractors to share best practices on how to do business together.
Let me tell you, it was an honor to talk with these men and women. They have dedicated their lives to the protection and defense of the United States. And in their role as small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professional leaders who create jobs and fuel our economy, their service to this country continues.
I was joined by one such business leader at the conference. As a Naval officer, Heidi Gerding was responsible for training linemen to build underwater mines to foil enemy ships. That was a tough job - but no tougher than building an IT and consulting company from scratch.
Over ten years, Heidi - a service-disabled veteran - has built her business, HeiTech Services, into a $40 million enterprise with 500 employees. She's won contracts with 13 Federal agencies and is one of DOT's most innovative IT service providers.
That's the kind of success story the Department of Transportation wants to help replicate. And we're doing just that with a variety of programs designed to benefit veteran-owned businesses.
So far, more than 1 in 3 direct transportation contracts awarded through the Recovery Act have gone to small and disadvantaged businesses owned by veterans and others. We've also far exceeded the government-wide goal for awarding contracts to small businesses through our regular federal programs. And we've launched a bonding education program to help small businesses acquire the financial muscle to compete against larger competitors in industries like construction.
We're especially committed to helping our service-disabled veterans succeed. In the last three years, we've come closer and closer to meeting the government-wide goal of awarding 3 percent of our direct contract spending to companies owned by service-disabled veterans. We're not there yet, but we're definitely heading in the right direction. And we have a game plan to kick the door open even wider.
For starters, our Small Business office has sponsored events at DOT to help service-disabled vets connect with procurement specialists and learn more about the ins and outs of competing for federal contracts. We're working to identify and advertise more procurements that service-disabled veterans can compete for. And we're telling our large prime contractors that if they want to do business with DOT, they need to include opportunities for veteran-owned businesses in their subcontractor plans.
The way I see it, our military veterans have sacrificed tremendously so that each of us has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. And, when they come home, it's our job to help remove some of the obstacles that may stand in the way of their own dreams.
Our economy needs successful small businesses now more than ever before. And we're committed to making sure that our veteran and service-disabled veteran communities play a key role in our future prosperity.