The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, in collaboration with USAA, the state of Washington, the city of Tacoma, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce, today announced the country’s first statewide Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ).
“When communities come together to recognize the talent and potential military spouses bring to the table we, collectively, take another step in the right direction to combat military spouse unemployment and underemployment,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Washington’s commitment to becoming our first statewide Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone truly sets the stage for future state engagements from coast to coast.”
The launch of the Washington MSEEZ was announced immediately following the designation of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce as a three-star Chamber of Valor. The three-star Chamber of Valor award is Hiring Our Heroes’ highest honor for local and state chambers; it recognizes their demonstrated leadership in connecting companies with talented veteran and military spouse candidates.
Established to connect military spouses with companies committed to hiring, MSEEZ are collaborative efforts among business, civic, and military communities that establish employment networks in municipalities around the country, and now, the state of Washington.
“It is a significant honor to be named the nation’s first statewide Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. This designation will help build on the efforts already begun in many of our communities across the state by building focused employment networks, which will connect military spouses to local career opportunities and ultimately, meaningful employment," said Kristine Reeves, director of the military & defense sector at the Washington State Department of Commerce. "We are proud to partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes, as well as our communities across the state, to identify best practices to ease the stress on 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% 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.
“Creating more family-wage job opportunities for Tacoma residents is one of my goals as mayor,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “I am proud to support an initiative that brings together business, government, and non-profit leaders to focus on a group of workers whose many talents are often underutilized or untapped in Pierce County – our military families.”
Hiring Our Heroes will launch MSEEZs throughout 2018 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, ultimately strengthening the financial security of our 21st century military families.