CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Not only is Corpus Christi an active-duty military community, but there’s also a sizable veteran community here as well.
Numbers from the latest census show about seven percent of residents served, which is on par with the national average. However, there’s one way the Coastal Bend stands out.
Corpus Christi is one of the best cities in America for veteran-owned businesses. Census data shows 515 such companies, which make up 6.8 percent of the city’s total, which ranks Corpus Christi 15th among medium-sized cities for the highest percentage of veteran-owned businesses.
“When we were looking to relocate, I wanted to find a community that was supportive of veterans,” said Bobby Howard.
Howard knew he’d find a supportive community in Corpus Christi. After all, he’d been here before.
“I was stationed here in 1991,” he said. “Over that time, I had been trying to come back and live here, but could never find a reason to. Opening a restaurant was a good reason to.”
Today, Howard owns and operates Howie’s Premium Subs in Moore Plaza. He opened his first shop in Colorado, but soon eyed a move to South Texas.
“I knew it was supportive of veterans and of the Navy base,” Howard said. “That Navy base is part of the reason, too. Navy is where my heart is.”
His heart brought him here last August; in January, he opened.
“I love making good food,” Howard said.
For him, that means oven-baked sandwiches, something he’s had a passion for since before his military days.
“A lot of veterans like myself probably just find something we’re really passionate about and because of our military experience we do it,” Howard said.
Like Howard, John Kingery had a passion, not for food, but for plants. That passion has bloomed into Williams St. Nursery and Landscaping, a business he opened in 2020.
Like Howard, a military brat who claims Alabama as home, Kingery wasn’t born in the Coastal Bend.
“I’m originally from Durham, NC,” he said.
The idea to come to the Coastal Bend to start a business wasn’t Kingery’s.
“Another veteran buddy of mine wanted me to get into the trucking business,” he said. "I started hauling grain for the farmers, then I started hauling sod grass, then I transitioned into the landscaping business from there.”
That transition included moving from Orange Grove to Corpus Christi. Here, Kingery saw a way to cash in on his passion in a growing community.
“This area is thriving,” he said. “Constant development, constant construction of new homes, constant demand for landscaping.”
Both Kingery and Howard are part of a growing group of veteran small-business owners.
What do they think sets them apart? The training.
“The military taught me discipline, how to handle myself, and how to lead,” Howard said.
“We did tons of overtime, tons of extra duty,” added Kingery. “Now we can do tons of extra work but benefit from the extra labor.”
Those benefits are now shared by the entire community.
Veteran-owned businesses not only serve the community, but they also help keep it employed.
Data shows 4,280 people are employed by veteran-owned businesses.
Contact Veterans In Focus reporters: Greg Chandler at email@example.com and Pat Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org