U.S. Chamber Foundation Expands Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone in Southwestern Virginia

August 21, 2019

Kathleen Jabs.jpg

Kathleen Jabs, Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs for Virginia
Kathleen Jabs, Deputy Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs for Virginia
© Hiring Our Heroes

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes and the state of Virginia announce an expansion of the Virginia Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ).  

“Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones are at the forefront in the efforts to combat the staggering military spouse unemployment rate,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to welcome the southwestern Virginia region into a growing network of communities across the state working to provide local solutions to barriers to entry for military spouses.”

Established to connect military spouses with companies committed to hiring, MSEEZs are collaborative efforts among business, civic and military communities to build employment networks in communities around the country — now including the southwestern Virginia region.

“Virginia is pleased to again partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the establishment of Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones in Southwestern Virginia,” said Carlos Hopkins, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. “The Commonwealth is home to the third-largest active duty and reserve population in America and it is critical that we provide our service members and their families with the support they deserve. We look forward to working with our partners and our Virginia Values Veterans (V3) certified companies throughout Southwestern Virginia to assist military spouses in finding gainful civilian employment.”

Military spouses represent an untapped segment of the workforce of the future.  They provide employers with a rich talent pool of diverse and versatile candidates with an exceptional level of grit.

“Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones are excellent opportunities for the business community to learn, connect and engage with talented military spouses in our community regarding meaningful employment opportunities,” said Joyce Waugh, president and CEO of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Roanoke Regional Chamber is pleased to host and partner on programs that provide veterans and military spouses access to education, mentorship, and other opportunities to advance their careers.”

The MSEEZ program grew from the findings of a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study, Military Spouses in the Workplace, which found that an overwhelming majority of employed military spouses thought having two incomes was vitally important to their families. However, the study said, only 50% of military families reported having dual-income status. This disparity reflects added strain on military families and can ultimately factor into a service member’s decision to stay in — or leave — the military. Such decisions, in turn, can affect overall military readiness and retention.  

“As a veteran myself and as the spouse of a veteran, I have seen first-hand the great opportunities and the equally great challenges that military spouses experience as they serve alongside their service member,” said Charlie Palumbo, Director of Transition and Employment Programs at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS). “This partnership between the Commonwealth, the Virginia Chamber and the U.S. Chamber to establish another regional Empowerment Zone aims to make employment possibilities easier for military spouses, so they can continue to serve their families and their nation.”

Hiring Our Heroes will launch MSEEZs throughout 2019 in communities across America. Building on a robust network of national and local employers, educational institutions and community resources, these MSEEZs will foster collaboration between key stakeholders to help identify best practices that will support and advance the mission of connecting military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities — and ultimately strengthen the financial security of our 21st century military families.