The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes, in collaboration with USAA, the city of Colorado Springs, and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, today announced Colorado Springs 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 the Colorado Springs area 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 join USAA, Colorado Springs, and the Colorado Springs Chamber to launch the third Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone in Colorado Springs, a city committed to supporting its military community for more than 70 years.”
Recognized as a “Great American Defense Community” by the Association of Defense Communities, Colorado Springs has established itself as a leading military support community.
“As the proud home to five military installations and approximately 38,500 uniformed military men and women, the Colorado Springs community has a wonderful history of supporting these selfless men and women, and their families,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “It is a significant honor for our city to be named the nation’s newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. This designation will help build on the effort that has already begun in our community by boosting focused employment networks to help connect military spouses to local career opportunities, which will ease the stress on military families and, ultimately, positively impact our entire nation.”
Recognizing the tremendous economic impact of military spouse unemployment and underemployment, the Colorado Springs MSEEZ will work as a grassroots effort to address the issues created by military spouse unemployment.
“Military spouses are an incredibly valuable asset in our nation’s workforce, especially in a military strong community like Colorado Springs. By earning the empowerment zone designation, we help open career doors between spouses and the employers who can benefit from their talent and experience. Providing this pathway is one way of supporting those who steadfastly serve our nation,” said Rich Burchfield, Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC chief defense development officer.
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.
Hiring Our Heroes will launch MSEEZ throughout 2018 in cities across America. Building on a robust network of national and local employers, educational institutions, and community resources, these MSEEZ 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.