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Chambers efforts for military families gains national attention
MARYSVILLE They said they had never seen anything like it, said Caldie Rogers, president of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.
She said has received requests for information from officials in far flung locations such as Maryland, Georgia and Alabama.
In December, at Rogers initiative, the local chamber launched what has become the Snohomish County Military Family Friendly Employment Initiative. At the request of the U.S. defense and labor departments, Rogers spent March 6 in Tampa, Fla., talking up the program to the national 2008 Workforce Summit, sponsored by the labor department and aimed exclusively at issues affecting military personnel and their families.
Essentially, the initiative asks local governments to pass resolutions encouraging employers to be open to hiring members of military families. As of early this year, about 13 Snohomish communities already had signed up for the program.
Once local governments are on board, the next step is lining up businesses willing to hire persons from military families. Once businesses register for the program, they can promote themselves as military family friendly, earning decals they put in the windows or logos for their Web sites.
Companies that join the initiative also can mount, for virtually free, essentially nationwide searches for potential employees thanks to listings on military Web sites around the country.
Rogers said the whole point is to fight what she called a silent but deadly and active prejudice. Military families sometimes are forced to move when the military member, or members, among them is reassigned. As a result, many employers are fearful of going through the time and expense of training someone, only to lose that employee when that persons family has to move.
In the past, Rogers has said that for her the program is a personal one, begun in response to problems encountered by someone close to her. Rogers noted she was flattered by the request she speak at the Florida convention, but the invitation arrived with no funding for the trip. She wasnt about to spend already strained chamber funds on the expedition. Sponsorship arrived via the Snohomish County Workforce Development Council and Puget Sound Energy.
We went then to make contacts for this area, Rogers said, adding she believes the trip could end up paying for itself. The chamber is now in the process of putting together national award and grant applications local officials would not have known about otherwise.
Further, as the local initiative apparently is the first of its kind in the country, the Marysville Tulalip Chamber also is now in line for, and already has won, at least one national award.
As for response to the program at the convention, Rogers said she heard from the wives of high ranking military officials who had faced exactly the type of prejudice the initiative looks to combat.
In the meantime, locally, Rogers said she has received numerous calls from local businesses praising the program for putting them in contact with highly qualified and willing job applicants.
For the segment we needed to help, this has been tremendous, Rogers said.
In the past, Mayor Dennis Kendall and others have noted Snohomish was a pretty logical place for the initiative to take root. There are, of course, several military bases in the area. Kendall guessed about one in five Marysville residents have some tie to the Navy.
Rogers emphasized businesses signing up dont necessarily have to be in hiring mode. There will be a yearly registration process, as she wants the initiative to be an ongoing enterprise, not a one-shot deal. Anyone with interest in the program can visit the chamber Web site at www.marysvilletulalipchamber.com.