National Veteran Business Conference: Right on the Mark


by Mike Melo


As the President and CEO of ITA International, a global support services company with a focus on the maritime and coastal environments,  I was delighted to be afforded the opportunity to provide a few lines for the VAntage Point Blog on this year’s National Veteran Small Business Conference, hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.  My wife and ITA’s Senior Vice President, Kathy, and I have attended every National Veteran Small Business Conference in the last six years, and it has enriched our personal and professional associations many fold each time. This year’s theme of building partnerships among Veterans, businesses, and the government is right on the mark.

The value of partnerships cannot be overstated. You cannot succeed in business by yourself. ITA has the luxury and privilege of being headquartered in a military-centric area, the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and, as such, enjoys interaction and partnerships with many Veterans, including those that own small and large businesses.  An added demographic bonus is that several of our elected representatives are on important House, Senate and Virginia state legislative committees and they represent very pro-military constituencies. As a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), I am treated as a valued partner. In fact, I have had numerous opportunities to interact with many of our elected officials and it is very clear that they want to hear from me and other Veteran entrepreneurs.

In perusing this year’s conference agenda, I am struck by the new and exciting features that have been added such as a multi-track based agenda offering business information and insights specific to wherever you are within the business growth lifecycle, exclusive presentations on acquisition forecasts and upcoming requirements from Government program managers and acquisition professionals, and enhanced networking opportunities. More than ever, this conference is current; it is unique and is at the top of my list of “must attend” events this year.

At ITA, we are indeed proud of our military heritage. The letters in ITA stand for “In the Arena,” which comes from an address delivered by President Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910. Roosevelt’s famous call to action, during that speech, is our guiding principle at ITA:

“It’s not the Critic who counts…not the man who points out how the strongman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better…the credit belongs to the man In the Arena…who strives…who spends himself…so if he fails he fails while daring so his place will not be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Of ITA’s 150 full-and part-time employees, 90 percent are either Veterans or are still serving as members of the Reserve.  Many of us have worn the nation’s cloth and take tremendous pride in supporting those that are still “In the Arena.”

One of the great things about being part of the National Veteran Small Business Conference is that it gives us the opportunity to venture “outside the lifelines” of Hampton Roads and tap into the vast Veteran networking venue that this conference offers.  Whether as a panel member in past conferences, a booth sponsor, or as an attendee, ITA thanks the Department of Veterans Affairs for spearheading such a great conference and looks forward to continuing our association with the National Veteran Small Business Conference for many years to come.

About the Writer: Mike Melo, President and CEO of ITA International, a global support services company with a focus on the maritime and coastal environments.

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