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Vet Fran Looks To Lower Veteran Unemployment

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sometimes lost amidst the unemployment crisis is the plight of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. But a franchise expo on Miami Beach this weekend is hoping to change their luck for the better.

Thousands will descend on the franchise expo and many are military veterans, like Reginald Foster who is looking to take orders from himself with a new business.

"I'm getting ready to transition out of the military in the next eight months and I'm just here looking at the different models that could be a good fit for my family and myself." Foster told CBS4's David Sutta.

It's not by chance Foster was at the expo. Dozens of franchisers courted him through a program called Vet Fran. It first emerged after the Gulf War to help troops returning from war back into society. Over time it faded away until now.

"We stepped up our campaign because of the need, the obvious draw down with the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We've stepped up," said Beth Solomon, who oversees the project.

It's estimated roughly 30 percent of young soldier returning home are now unemployed. The franchise industry sees them as perfect recruits.

"They generally don't have a tremendous amount of wealth; but they are highly educated," explained Collin Gaffey, salesman for Lucille Roberts Women's Fitness. "They are terribly motivated so one way of helping them out is give them discounts on the fees and help them with the financing."

Those discounts of 25% off, even 100 percent financing, are very convincing.

"The franchise runs parallel with the military because they have set procedures in place and that's exactly what we do in the military," Foster said. "We are used to coming in and following a plan."

Gaffey added, "An absolute no brainier. How could you not do it? How could you not do it?"

Vet Fran want to get 7500 vets into franchises by 2014, but surprisingly it won't be easy.

"Our biggest challenge is finding the veterans," said Solomon. "This has never been done before on this scale."

Some franchisers are now going out of their way to find vets. American Taco Shop has a Miami location and logistics worked out for a new store. They are determined to find a vet, hopefully this weekend, to open it. American Taco representative Ernesto Salazar told CBS4, "It's the right thing to do."

The franchise expo goes through the weekend. It's free for military vets and their families.

For more information on Vet Fran go to:

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