NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Boosting business opportunities for veteran-owned entrepreneurs is the right thing to do, of course, but it's also good for corporate America's bottom line.

The Department of Defense estimates that 230,000 to 245,000 enlisted personnel and officers will leave the active duty this year. Many will go into business.

According to the Small Business Administration, of the more than 27 million small businesses in the U.S., 9%, or 2.5 million of them, are veteran-owned.

"What we're noticing is that more companies want to do business with veteran-owned businesses," Mistry Stutsman of the Institute for Veteran and Military Families at Syracuse University.

That was the idea behind the first-o-its-kind "VetSource" gathering in Norfolk, allowing veteran-entrepreneurs to interact with Fortune 500 company leaders and learn about procurement opportunities.

"We've actually written a business paper for why you want to hire a veteran," said Stutsman. "They can do a lot with little information, they're dedicated to the team, they're innovative, they can think on their feet, they're good leaders, but they're good at taking direction."

Veteran owned small businesses generate more than $1.2 trillion in sales per year and they employ more than 5.8 million people.

Retired Brigadier General Gary Profit is Military Program Senior Director for Walmart. He says encouraging veteran-owned businesses is good business for the big guys, too.

"This isn't philanthropy," he said. "This is enlightened self-interest, and we think they will make us much better if we can develop the kind of relationship. And so we have to invest in their ability to know about us, much as we want to learn about them."

Profit says big companies have a great responsibility, civically and socially, to lead when it comes to working with veterans,.

Today's get-together was hosted by Walmart and a group called the Coalition for Veteran Owned Businesses.