AAFE-affiliate Renaissance Economic Development Corporation (REDC) has approved and disbursed the first loan from the organization’s new Veteran Small Business Loan program. The recipient, Chris Nolte, received funds to create a retail location for Propel, his web-based electric bike business. Mr. Nolte, 33, served for 5 years as a fuel truck driver in the U.S. military. During his service, Mr. Nolte completed tours of Iraq and Kuwait, before leaving the military in 2005.

“This loan will enable me, and my business, to take the next step. I now have the resources to everything the way I want to do it, not just the way I can do it,” said Mr. Nolte, who established Propel in 2011. “At the risk of sounding cheesy, Renaissance’s loan will allow me to achieve my dreams. I don’t have to do anything halfway now. I can go all the way and be the best, and that’s what I’ve wanted all along.”

REDC established the Veteran Small Business Loan program that supplied Mr. Nolte’s loan, in addition to a program aimed at veterans looking to operate as New York City street vendors, in response to the economic hardships many ex-service members face after returning to civilian life.

The unemployment rate among veterans in New York is consistently higher than the state average, especially among younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, the unemployment percentage for new veterans in New York was 16.7%; in the nation as a whole, it was 12.1%. These numbers equate to over 234,000 new veterans in New York looking for work after leaving the military. By establishing these loan programs, REDC hopes to provide self-employment opportunities that will enable New York’s veterans to establish successful post-military careers.