New York leaders say they've reached a big milestone for many veteran businesses owners in the state.
Nine-hundred of those businesses are now certified as "State Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses."
The designation opens up more opportunities to land state contracts.
Roann Destito, the commissioner for the state Office of General Services, said they want as many eligible veterans as possible to know about the program.
"We want to get that 900 number obviously up to another milestone, and we want to make sure that all veteran-owned businesses know about the program, and really take part in it," said Destito.
Leaders say state agencies are on track to spend about $170 million on payments to certified businesses by the end of the fiscal year.
One of the veterans at the milestone announcement was Army veteran Tony Baird. He joined the military in 1981.
"They sort of made me feel really good about myself," Baird said. "I took a test and they said, 'whoa, you did really well on it so you can do pretty much anything that you want to do.' I was younger and I just felt like, ok, if I'm needed and you think I'm that good."
Specializing in satellite tracking and installation, he decided to stay in for seven years.
Baird took his leadership skills going on to coach, teach history and said he saw economic disparity he wanted to help correct.
And so, one thing led to another, and in 2005, Tony Baird Electronics was established.
"It was the idea of, if I can start a business and create some jobs, and hire inner-city youth or people or anything like that, in particular inner-city, then I would be making a difference," he said.
Baird has a disability from his time in the military, and he said the state’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business program has been a big help for his business, and Baird encourages others to look into the program.
"Please don't hesitate," he said. "I will never look at that as competition. I will always look at it as the idea of what are we doing together to make the community better, to make the advantages better for people who are struggling."
Baird's business has three main divisions: custom cable and wire harness assemblies; audio-visual installation and distribution.
He's hoping to continue to grow.
For more information on the program, click here.