Colorado Springs gains special designation in support of military spouses
Author: Tony Peck, The Gazette - May 22, 2018 - Updated: May 22, 2018
COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs on Monday was named the nation’s third Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative.
Hiring Our Heroes champions employment opportunities for military spouses through partnerships with Colorado Springs officials, USAA, the local Chamber of Commerce & EDC and military leaders from the region.
“Colorado Springs is ahead of the curve on supporting military spouses. However, we can always do more,” said Mayor John Suthers. “We are, to a large extent, defined by our military community.”
City officials declared Tuesday as Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Day.
Nearly 40,000 active-duty military members serve five installations in the city. Military spouses nationwide have a 16 percent unemployment rate, four times the average of their civilian counterparts.
Military families are often reassigned every couple of years, with about 67 percent of spouses quitting a job due to a move. It can take up to six months to find a new job, causing more stress for many families that need two incomes to make ends meet.
“I do hear a lot about military spouses struggling when they relocate. Sometimes they end up finding jobs that don’t match their potential,” said Mollie Raymond, married to Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of the Air Force Space Command. “Programs like this will really heighten resources in the community.”
Colorado Springs joins San Antonio and Tampa, Fla., as a Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. Hire Our Heroes was launched in 2011 to try to help transitioning service members, military spouses and veterans find fulfilling employment, the program’s website says.
The program has sponsored more than 1,000 job fairs in cities and military bases around the world, helping more than 31,000 veterans and military spouses find employment since 2011, the site says.
The program uses a grass-roots approach, holding roundtable discussions on local “industry pillars” and job opportunities.
In Colorado Springs, those pillars include sports, cybersecurity and health care, said program spokeswoman Megan Paone.
Military spouses have much to offer, Raymond said. Through frequent moves and constant support of active-duty partners, many spouses are flexible and resilient – highly sought-after traits in any prospective employee.
“We struggle a lot with moving and relocating. We want to be employed,” Raymond said. “But we are going in a great direction. We are paying attention to our spouse’s needs.”