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Hampton Roads is the newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ)

Hampton Roads is the newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ)
Hampton Roads is the newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ)
Hampton Roads is the newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ)

“Hampton Roads is the first MSEEZ in Virginia and we are looking to you to pave the road for statewide success,” said Natalie Ryan, Senior Manager of the military spouse program for Hiring Our Heroes.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, in collaboration with the Hampton Roads Chamber and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council announced on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 Hampton Roads as the nation’s newest Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ). This 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 establishes geographically-focused employment networks to connect military spouses to local career opportunities.

The Hampton Roads Chamber connected the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with local military resources and community leaders and has long been an advocate for the military community. Hampton Roads Chamber President & CEO, Bryan K. Stephens shared his experience growing up as a military dependent and then later serving with a military spouse at home who skillfully managing the stress of the deployments and family moves. “The MSEEZ links talent with the business community. We can solve the challenges of the military spouse. I am here to tell you, military spouses serve our nation and are talented workers that bring the same level of discipline to the workplace as their military counterparts. We 100% support this program.”

Norfolk Mayor, Kenneth Cooper Alexander, declared October 10th, MSEEZ day with a mayoral proclamation to honor the launch with the goal to create a movement across America. The morning started with a committed working group of local and national community and business leaders who will continue to meet on a bi-monthly basis to continue the discussion and efforts to support military spouses and confront the challenges of military spouse employment. The collaboration included discussing job fairs and creating an accessible network for military spouses.

Also attending in support of the launch was Laurie Smalling Letts, Senior Director of Community Relations, Walmart. who applauded the MSEEZ initiative. “Walmart has a program in place that allows military spouses who relocate their families due to a change in duty station can transfer into a job in their new location. You can’t walk into a Walmart store without seeing a military spouse. We recognize the importance of having them as part of the team,” Letts said.

“We are confident this effort will have a significant impact on military spouses,” said Ryan. The launch included remarks by Carlos Hopkins, Secretary of Virginia Department of Veterans Services who said, “Our Governor and the first lady of Virginia know what it means to transition from service and move from place to place. Hampton Roads has the support of the entire administration on the launch of the MSEEZ. Collaboration is key to making sure Virginia is the most military friendly state in the region.”

The presenters praised the role of the military spouse and echoed the sentiment of wanting military members to stay in Virginia. “If we’re not taking care of our military spouses, we’re not taking care of our military,” said Hopkins. Chris Doss, Director of Operations at Capital One and a member of the Working Group said, “Capital One is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on this great cause because we understand the talent of military spouses. It’s the military spouse that is the backbone of national defense, and we must solve this problem with passion and tenacity. We look forward to seeing military spouses in the workforce,” Doss said.

U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Brad Skillman said about the MSEEZ launch, “It’s about time. I can only keep my sailors if their families are happy. When we focus on the family, the job of the military gets easier.” 

The Hampton Roads Chamber works as an impactful advocate for the business community and was proud to be a part of this launch and the continuing efforts of the working group in the months ahead. 

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