By Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski, USACAPOC (A) Public Affairs SergeantApril 28, 2011
PHOENIX, Arizona- Inspired by his father's desire to serve communities through the Red Cross and the Military, 1st Lt. Ray Ragan, a small business owner and Army Public Affairs Officer, earned the Arizona's Small Business Association's 2011 Veterans' Small Business Champion of the year Award. He will be formally presented with the award on May 5, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona as part of the Small Business Week.
While Ragan served as a Public Affairs Officer for a Sustainment Command in Iraq during 2009, very often he was assigned to cover the Civil Affairs mission within the Ad-Djuayal Provincial Reconstruction Team. It was through those assignments that he witnessed the implementation of a Chamber of Commerce which brought together local businesspersons for the promotion of profitable interests in the community. "It was then that I realized the importance of having a Chamber of Commerce," said Ragan.
Upon returning home to Phoenix, Ragan formed his own business, Rook & Knight- Strategic Communications and Technology, and soon discovered that the city did not have a Veteran's Chamber of Commerce. Although Phoenix has a large population of retired service Veterans, they were not entirely aware of the needs that younger Veterans, Guardsman and Reserve Soldiers had. The need that stood out the most to Ragan was securing the Veteran's economic future.
Ragan's passion to help Veteran's with economical issues became contagious as he inspired members of the community and local Veterans to join him in generating a Veteran's Chamber of Commerce in Phoenix.
While Ragan works to improve the communications of businesses in Arizona through Rook & Knight, he is also volunteering his time to operations, communications, lobbying, education, and advocacy in order to improve the economic status of the area's Veterans. "There are a lot of people in our community that are aware of the issues and want to help" said Ragan. "They're just not sure where to start; that's where I help in concentrating the efforts to make a real impact."
Since the founding of Phoenix's Veterans Chamber of Commerce, Ragan has been successful at overcoming unemployment for many Veterans by educating local corporate leaders on the benefits of hiring Veterans. He has advocated for a review of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) along with other Department of Defense leadership representatives to protect the jobs of National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers while they are deployed. Additionally, he has produced the nation's first Accessibility to Capital for Small and Veteran-Owned Business report that assigned a grade for Arizona lenders on how well they meet the needs of Arizona's small businesses. Although there have been many successes since the founding of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, one of the most important successes is that there is now an established monthly assembly where Veterans can come together to discuss employment, business opportunities and economic matters.
As a prior-enlisted Soldier, Ragan graduated from Officer Candidate School and branched into Signal as an Army National Guard officer. Since then, Ragan has transferred to the Army Reserve to work within a Civil Affairs unit. He currently serves as the Public Affairs Officer for the 351st Civil Affairs Command in Mountain View, Calif.
Ragan will humbly accept the Arizona's Small Business Association's 2011 Veterans' Small Business Champion of the year Award on May 5, 2011, however, "I hope that other Veterans will see the success [of the Phoenix Veteran's Chamber of Commerce] and be inspired to replicate the same efforts [in their state]," said Ragan.