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Sean Haney has successfully opened his own junk removal franchise in York County for a business with a very particular "vetting" process.

The former Marine began operating his own JDog Junk Removal & Hauling in December. The Chester County-based business offers franchises exclusively to veterans and their family members.

Owner Jerry Flanagan, who served in the Army, said he started the business in 2011 without promoting it as a military company, but customers quickly convinced him to market himself as veteran.

Veteran unemployment was particularly high at the time, Flanagan recalled, and he took the move as an opportunity to affect change.

The company has taken off as a result with about 60 franchises in 24 states, another 70 set to open throughout 2016 and major media coverage, according to Flanagan.

Haney, 59, first heard about JDog on Fox News, which featured Flanagan's business in 2014.

The Springettsbury resident, unemployed for about two years after being let go from his engineering job, said the opportunity seemed like a perfect match.

"I had saved enough money to live comfortably at the time, but I was getting to a point where I needed to make a decision," Haney said.

Flanagan's philosophy of helping veterans and the communities they serve piqued Haney's interest, and Haney has been working with Mr. Sandy's Homeless Veteran's Center in York City since starting his franchise.

Haney doesn't currently operates his franchise alone, but he recently hired another local Marine veteran to serve as a temp with potential plans to make him a full-time employee. Haney hopes to be able to hire 15-20 other veterans as he business grows during the next 12-18 months, he said.

Haney was introduced to his current temp by Bill Kohler, the former owner of Never Forgotten BBQ in Springettsbury Township who now serves as a full-time veteran's help adviser.

Kohler met Haney through an initiative to start a York County Veteran Business Owners Association, and he's tried to work with any veteran that approaches him for help, he said.

"It's a struggle (for some veterans) to find work (in York County)," Kohler said. "Maybe they have a troubled past or just don't fit into a business' tradition, but sometimes they just need a second chance."

Phil Polandro, director of the county's Office of Veteran Affairs, said York County has more opportunities for former military members than other areas throughout the state.

Polandro pointed to PA CareerLink and the Veteran's Job Vault through the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce as major resources for job-seeking veterans.

The national unemployment rate for veterans was 3.9 percent in Nov. 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Flanagan said it's his goal get that figure to 1 percent.

As part of the effort, Flanagan works with other businesses that hire veterans and plans to expand JDog beyond junk removal to offer services including handyman work and carpet installation, he said.

—Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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