U.S. Chamber Foundation to Launch Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone in Northern Virginia

April 1, 2019

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and the Veterans Employment Initiative today announced Northern Virginia as the nation’s newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ). A collaborative effort among the local business, civic, and military communities to address the economic impact of military spouse unemployment and underemployment on 21st-century military families, MSEEZ establish geographically-focused employment networks to connect military spouses to local career opportunities.

“Military spouses in Northern Virginia and around the country represent a highly educated and skilled pool of candidates who, despite their skills, continue to face significant rates of unemployment and underemployment,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Hiring Our Heroes is proud to launch the newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone in Northern Virginia.”

Recognizing the tremendous economic impact of military spouse unemployment and underemployment, the MSEEZ will serve as a grassroots effort to combat the issues created by military spouse unemployment in Northern Virginia.

“The sacrifices required to serve our country are not made only by the women and men in uniform, but by their families as well," said Rep. Jennifer Wexton. "Military spouse unemployment is four times the national average, as many spouses give up dreams of pursuing their own careers while their partners are serving. I am grateful for the work of the MSEEZ working group to leverage local community leaders and industry partners to shine a light on the issue and find sponsor-proven, community-driven solutions to bring financial security to our military families.”

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

"Our businesses are in critical need of highly skilled workers and the Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone is a great resource for our region’s technology companies to tap into the extremely talented military spouse community,” said Bobbie Kilberg, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Hiring Our Heroes launched the first MSEEZ more than a year ago and throughout 2018 and 2019 has launched a dozen MSEEZ in cities across America. Building on a robust network of national and local employers, educational institutions, and community resources, these MSEEZ 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, ultimately strengthening the financial security of our 21st-century military families.

“A fulfilled professional life for a military spouse is a key retention factor to a serving military member and thus directly affects our national security,” said Steve Jordan, executive director of the Veterans Employment Initiative and chair of the Northern Virginia MSEEZ.