Servicemembers leave the military with extremely valuable leadership skills and professional experiences that lend themselves to running a business. Veterans are self-sufficient, they work tirelessly to achieve their objectives, and a great number possess the managerial expertise and knowledge to launch and maintain a thriving independent business venture. Accordingly, IDVA administers and/or supports the following state programs to assist veterans in this pursuit.
Mission: Veteran Entrepreneurship
Veteran Entrepreneurship is an IDVA and CMS jointly-led initiative (originally launched in June 2012) that brings together pertinent government agencies, educational institutions, trade associations, business sector experts, and employers to educate returning servicemembers and veterans regarding resources and advancement opportunities available to veteran-owned businesses.
Veteran Entrepreneurship provides a variety of venues to (1) help returning servicemembers and veterans start their own business and (2) assist existing veteran-owned businesses in expanding their operation and accessing procurement opportunities. These include training seminars, educational sessions, and other related events that enable veterans and veteran business owners to gain targeted assistance relating to:
- Procurement opportunities;
- Business certifications;
- Application procedures;
- Writing a business plan;
- Managing business finances;
- Gaining access to capital;
- Marketing and branding; and
- Other key steps in the entrepreneurial process.
At the same time, participants have a unique opportunity to network and exchange best practices with agency experts, key business associations, and like-minded professionals.
For more information, please visit Veteran Entrepreneurship.
State Procurement Benefits for Veteran-Owned
Through the Illinois Veterans Business Program (IVBP), administered by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, state agencies and universities are encouraged to spend at least 3% of their procurement budgets with certified veteran-owned businesses. That equates to over $300 million in state contracts that are specifically targeted to veteran-owned firms every year. State contracting covers everything from construction and building repairs, to building maintenance, office supplies, upkeep for state parks, and a variety of other needed services. Eligible businesses include companies with annual gross sales under $75 million that are 51% owned by one or more qualified veteran(s) or qualified service-disabled veteran(s) living in Illinois. If that’s you, become certified as a veteran-owned business by submitting an application available at: www2.illinois.gov/cms/business/sell2/pages/veteranownedbusinesses.aspx. And if your business is already certified by the VA or Cook County, there’s an expedited process.
Download Program Overview & Registration Process:
Illinois Veteran-Owned Businesses Brochure.pdf
Illinois’ Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
The Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network assists pre-venture entrepreneurs with launching their new business ventures and provides guidance to existing businesses to help them grow and expand.
With 35 locations throughout the state, Illinois’ SBDCs provide one-on-one confidential business advice at no charge for business plan development, financing, marketing, regulatory compliance information, and more. Existing businesses looking to expand into new markets can find that assistance at specialized centers with expertise in the areas of seeking government contracting opportunities, accessing international trade and export markets, as well as assistance for technology based and high-growth potential companies.
For more information, please contact the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Business Information Center toll-free helpline at 1–800–252–2923 or visit
Illinois Small Biz.
Small Business Set-Aside Program (SBSP)
Every year the State of Illinois sets aside millions of dollars for contracts exclusively with small businesses. In 2011, Illinois awarded nearly $57 million to small firms through SBSP. There are currently 65
Small Business Set-Aside Categories
that have been specifically set-aside for small businesses. Also, a large number of contracts under $50,000 are set-aside for Illinois small business competition. Eligible businesses must meet one of the following criteria:
- Your wholesale business annual sales and receipts were $10 million or less.
- Your retail business annual sales and receipts were $6 million or less.
- Your construction business annual sales and receipts were $10 million or less.
- Your manufacturing company employs 250 people or less.
For more information on registering as a certified vendor or for access to frequently asked questions, visit
Advantage Illinois - Enhancing Small Business Access to Capital
The State of Illinois is committed to improving business access to capital and assisting companies in expand their workforce capacity or start-up activity. Supported by $78 million from the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, and administered through the Illinois Department of Commercial and Economic Opportunity (DCEO),
Advantage Illinois consists of three programs to spur institutional lending to small businesses, and one program to leverage private venture capital in start-ups and high-growth businesses. These programs are open to all eligible businesses in Illinois (not exclusively to businesses owned by veterans):
Capital Access Program – The Capital Access Program (CAP) may be accessed via participating banks. Through the program, financial institutions are encouraged to make capital financing loans to small and new businesses that do not qualify under conventional lending policies. CAP funding can be used for many business purposes, including start-up costs, working capital, business procurement, franchise fees, equipment, inventory, and the purchase, construction, renovation, or tenant improvements of an eligible place of business that is not for passive real estate investment purposes. For more information, visit
CAP’s homepage or view this
Participation Loan Program – The Participation Loan Program (PLP) offers five loan programs that are designed to enable small businesses to obtain medium to long-term financing, always in the form of term loans, to help them grow and expand their businesses. PLP increases support per full-time employee to $25,000 - $65,000 (for veteran employees, the $65,000 maximum applies). With any of the PLP loans, the financial institution identifies potential opportunities for state participation. For more information, visit
PLP’s homepage or view this
Collateral Support Program – The Collateral Support Program (CSP) may be accessed via participating banks. It is designed to supplement loan collateral of small businesses and entrepreneurs to enhance the equity and/or loan collateral levels of these potential borrowers. The program supplies pledged collateral accounts to participating lending institutions, thereby enhancing the collateral of individual loans, while providing a source of deposits to lending institutions. CSP funding can be used for many business purposes, including start-up costs, working capital, business procurement, franchise fees, equipment, inventory, and the purchase, construction, renovation, or tenant improvements of an eligible place of business that is not for passive real estate investment purposes. For more information, visit
CSP’s homepage or view this
Invest Illinois Venture Fund – The Invest Illinois Venture Fund (IIVF) is a venture capital program seeking to support young, innovative companies, and start-ups that show a high potential for future growth resulting in the creation of high-paying professional Illinois jobs. Applicants with a good business model and other interested investors should apply directly to DCEO. For more information on eligible and qualified uses, visit
IIVF’s homepage or view this
Tax Credit Programs
The State of Illinois has a broad portfolio of tax credit programs to help accelerate the growth of new and existing businesses across the state. These programs are open to all eligible businesses in Illinois (not exclusively businesses owned by veterans):
Illinois Angel Investment Program – Investors may claim 25% of an investment into a qualified Illinois business venture – up to $2 million in investment for a $500,000 credit. For more information on qualified business ventures, visit the
Illinois Angel Investment Program homepage.
Small Business Jobs Creation Tax Credit Program – Under this program, small businesses that create one or more new, full-time positions that meet the eligibility requirements can receive a $2,500 tax credit. Eligible jobs are those that pay at least $10/hour or $18,200/annually and the position must be sustain for one full year. For more information, visit the
R&D Tax Credit – Companies that are looking to expand research activities in Illinois are now eligible for a 6.5% income tax credit on qualified R&D costs. The credit was recently extended through tax years ending on or before December 31, 2015. For more information on qualifying expenses and claiming the R&D Tax Credit, contact the Illinois Department of Revenue’s Business Hotline at 217-524-4772.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) -
expired December 31, 2013 – WOTC is a federal program that provides tax savings to employers who hire people from certain target groups, including the hiring of veterans. Tax credits are available from $1,200 up to $9,600 depending on the category. For more information, visit
IDES’ WOTC homepage.
Veteran’s Tax Credit – Employers can earn an income tax credit of up to $5,000 annually for hiring qualified unemployed OEF/OIF veterans. The credit is 20% of the total wages paid up to $5,000 to every veteran hired after July 1, 2012. Alternatively, employers can also earn an income tax credit of up to $1,200 annually for hiring veterans of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom. The credit is 10% of the total wages paid to every veteran hired after January 1, 2010. To file or receive more info, please visit the
Illinois Department of Revenue(IDOR) webpage or contact IDOR’s Business Hotline at 217-524-4772.
Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Tax Credit – The EDGE program offers a tax incentive to encourage companies to locate or expand operations in Illinois when there is active consideration of a competing location in another state. To qualify a company must provide documentation that attests to the fact of competition among a competing state, and agree to make an investment of capital improvements and create full time jobs in Illinois. For more detailed information, visit the
EDGE Tax Credit homepage or call the Dept. of Commercial and Economic Opportunity at 217-524-8449.
For additional resources available from DCEO's Bureau of Business Development,
For additional resources available from DCEO's Bureau of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, & Technology,