Veteran Friendly Chattanooga 2012 Recognizes Area Employers

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hamilton Place Mall is teaming up with VetForce1, a new Chattanooga nonprofit, to celebrate Veterans’ Day by thanking veteran friendly employers at “Veteran Friendly Chattanooga 2012.” 

The event will take place in at Hamilton Place Mall on Saturday from 12-4 p.m.

“This is our first public event,” says Larry Trabucco, VetForce1 founder and president of the organization’s volunteer board. “We’ve been together just six months; however, the interest in our mission has been so strong that we’re being pulled into service much faster than we anticipated.” That interest is coming from both area employers that want to hire qualified veterans and from veterans that are looking for a new career in Chattanooga. 

“Although there are many good services for veterans in the area,” says Mr. Trabucco, “they aren’t adequately addressing the basic need for meaningful employment.” Rather than complain about the problem, however, Mr. Trabucco got together a group of businessmen and women to fix it.

“Our initial focus,” says Tim Dempsey a social sector consultant who has helped Trabucco organize VetForce1, “has been to create a program that will efficiently answer the employment needs of recently separated veterans – those that have come home during the Gulf War era.” 

There are more 28,000 veterans in Hamilton County with nearly 7,600 fitting Mr. Dempsey’s description. “These men and women experience an unemployment rate that misrepresents our gratitude for their service,” he says. “If they fought to protect our way of life on foreign soil, shouldn’t we fight a little for them to participate in it when they come home?”

The unemployment rate for Gulf War era veterans is around 12 percent. And the younger they are the worse things get, officials said.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the youngest veterans experienced an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent last year. That’s about six and a half times the national average. 

And that’s a statistic that doesn’t sit well with the companies which are partnering with VetForce1, including CBL which was founded by veterans more than 30 years ago. The company sees its partnership with VetForce1 as a way to show its appreciation for the sacrifices veterans have made by assisting them in their transition back to civilian life. “CBL's decision to join VetForce1 was simple,” says Maggie Carrington, vice president of Human Resources. “Their mission resonates with us because it enables a coalition of employers to give these veterans the freedom to pursue their dreams coupled with the support of individuals within those companies who are committed to help them succeed.”

“The transition from military service to a civilian job can be extremely difficult,” points out Nick Lemley, a Marine veteran who served four years in Asia including Afghanistan. Mr. Lemley now owns Devil Dawg Farms in Ringgold where he raises free range pigs and wants to offer an apprenticeship program for disabled veterans. “One of the toughest things for veterans looking for a job,” Mr. Lemley says, “is the trouble they have translating their military experience in a way that civilian employers can understand.” As a result, even those employers that stand to benefit the most don’t know how to evaluate the skillsets veterans bring to the table.

Joe Ledbetter is another veteran entrepreneur who decided to capitalize on Chattanooga’s nearly forgotten heritage with Whiskey to begin his company, Chattanooga Whiskey. Mr. Ledbetter plans to hire as many veterans as he can when his company begins operations in Chattanooga. But he also knows how hard it is to transition from the military to, what he calls, “the real world.” “The services that are available to separated veterans don’t always work for them and many are forced to do what they can on their own to make it,” he says. “It’s a tough situation.” Mr. Ledbetter believes that the private sector is in a unique position to solve many of the problems veterans face when they try to find a job. “I love the way VetForce1 is going about its mission,” says Mr. Ledbetter. “They’re not just engaging employers as a resource for unemployed veterans but building the program around them.”

Many veterans use school as a way of making their credentials more relevant to civilian employers. James Scott is one of approximately 600 veterans that are currently pursuing a college degree at UTC and Chattanooga State on the GI Bill. After two tours in Iraq, Mr. Scott began classes at UTC and took up a personal mission to make the campus more veteran friendly. So he started a chapter of Student Veterans of America with two other student veterans, Justin McDonald and Jarred Dickerson. Mr. Scott reiterates Mr. Lemley’s remarks about translating military experience and adds that their professional networks don’t help much. “Military service takes you all over the world,” he points out. “So the professional contacts we make are also all over the world.” Not only must veterans compete for jobs with skillsets that are difficult to explain but, “We are competing without the benefit of the kind of local network that helps others get access to really good jobs in Chattanooga.”

The types of higher level positions many veterans are seeking in the private sector require complex people-oriented skills to succeed, officials said. Most are forced to go it alone in the competition for these jobs when there is a ready supply of upcoming managers in companies all around town who could help. When fully functioning, VetForce1 will partner with 52 area employers under the banner of Company 52. “The name comes from the fact that we can feature one company a week at a meet-and-greet session for VetForce1 participants,’” says Mr. Dempsey. The overall plan is simple he explains, “We connect with veterans pursuing a college degree on the GI Bill, match them with corporate mentors from participating companies and then refer them to internship and career opportunities with these same companies.” 

Companies that are interested in learning more about becoming a member of VetForce1’s Company 52 should contact the organization. “We see a day when every veteran that wants a job has a job,” says Mr. Dempsey, “but we have a lot to do to get there.”

Employers participating in Veteran Friendly Chattanooga 2012 include:
CBL
Chattanooga State
Chattanooga Whiskey
Chattem
Devil Dawg Farms
EPB
First Tennessee Bank
Raymond James

Student Veteran Association 


Career Coach Goes To Eastdale Neighborhood Association

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s mobile Career Coach will be at the Eastdale Apartments in Chattanooga, located at 1314 Moss St. on Friday, July 10, from noon-3 p.m. Career Coach staff will be helping area residents. They will be onsite to help people create resumes and register with Jobs4tn.gov where there are more than 90,000 jobsavailable.   ... (click for more)

Attorney General Announces Settlement Allowing Dollar Tree To Acquire Family Dollar

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced Thursday the merger of two large national chains of deep discount stores, Dollar Tree, headquartered in Chesapeake, Va. and Family Dollar, headquartered in Matthews, NC. As part of the agreement, Dollar Tree will be required to divest hundreds of Family Dollar stores nationwide, including stores in Memphis and Nashville. ... (click for more)

Healy Says Bass Pro Shop At East Ridge To Get Underway Next Month, New Hotel, Restaurants Planned Nearby; Sewers Are An Issue

Commercial realtor John Healy said Thursday that construction is set to start next month on the Bass Pro Shop at Exit 1 in East Ridge. He said it is due to open next May. Mr. Healy also said Wolftever Development that is carrying out the project has also bought additional land near the Bass Pro Shop site at the entrance to Camp Jordan Park. He said one purchase is America's Best ... (click for more)

Work Set To Start In October On $28 Million Retail, Office, Apartment Development At The 700 Block of Market Street

An Atlanta developer said work will start in October on a $28 million retail, office and apartment complex in the long-vacant middle of the 700 block of Market Street. Boyd Simpson of the Simpson Company said the project was made possible because his firm also owns the adjacent SunTrust Tower and can use some of its excess parking for occupants of the new building. He said ... (click for more)

Police Need To Stop The Road Cowboys - And Response (2)

Where is our highway patrol?  If they were known to regularly patrol our interstate highways through our city I don't think it would take long before the "truckers" were aware of it.  There are places in our country where this is the case.   When I have traveled Interstates 24 and 75 I may see the occasional car pulled over but rarely if ever is it an 18-wheeler. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Never Disturb The Dead

I’ve got too many things in my life that scare me so I’ve always been real leery of “unnecessary fear.” A guy named Terry wanted to teach me how to catch a live rattlesnake one time but had a tough time telling me what exactly to do with the angry serpent when the time came to let it go. I have the same view of these paranormal societies where otherwise sane people go around looking ... (click for more)