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Government urges businesses to hire veterans

By: Justin Quesinberry

Published: November 24, 2011


Companies that hire veterans could get from $5,000 to $9,000 per hire from the government. President Barack Obama signed the new tax credits into law this week.

According to the Governor’s Office, post -Sept. 11 veterans face higher unemployment rates than civilians nationally.

In 2010, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after Sept. 11 was 8.2 percent in North Carolina. That was below the national average of 11.5 percent.

James Gillem was one of the lucky ones to land a job quickly after his retirement from the military earlier this year. He works at Combat Medical Systems in Fayetteville.  He served in the military 22 years, 17 of which were spent in the 82 Airborne. Gillem deployed six times into combat and retired a 1st Sergeant earlier this year. “It’s always uncertain when this is all you've known since the age of 19,” he said.

Fellow veteran Corey Russ is president of Combat Medical Systems.  When he's hiring someone, being a veteran can be an advantage for a candidate.

“They’ve been very familiar with difficult situations,” he said. “They've shown sound judgment and accomplished a mission and work hard, all the attributes I think an employer's looking for are found in veterans.”

According to the North Carolina Military Business Center, roughly 16,000 service members transition out of North Carolina bases and into the workforce each year.

“To quote a movie from ‘The Survivors, Robin Williams is standing on the field going, 'What do I do now, Sonny?' That's what a lot of us feel when we get to the end of that career,” Gillem said.

The state – operated Military Business Center opened in 2005. One of its goals is match companies looking for certain skills with veterans who have those abilities.

“It’s really an economic development issue. The governor, the General Assembly realize that in order to help grow existing businesses in this state, or to attract new businesses in this state, particularly those in the defense market, we can really leverage this transitioning workforce because they bring such tremendous skills and discipline and other soft skills, if you will, to our work force here in North Carolina,” said Scott Dorney, executive director of the MBC.

“Obviously we want to capture those folks, as many as possible, and keep them here in the state of North Carolina.

“We also appreciate the skills that bring to our workforce and the opportunity that that gives us in North Carolina to grow our businesses and attract new businesses using this transitioning military workforce as a catalyst.”

Strata Solar in Chapel Hill is looking to hire 50 to 60 workers to install solar panels in large solar farms.

“On a job we're just finishing in Kings Mountain, we had about 22,000 of them,” said John Morrison, chief operating officer for Strata Solar.

The company plans a cluster of projects near Fayetteville early next year. The company has not yet turned to the Military Business Center for help, but Morrison said he sees the potential in hiring veterans.

“The sort of work that we have in terms of installation is one that's accessible to a lot of folks, people who are diligent, willing to work hard and in many cases, who can show some leadership,” he said.

Gillem   earned a Ph.D during his time in the military. His advice to other veterans leaving the service is to be prepared.

“A lot of the senior NCOs and officers retiring did not have the education that they needed to propel themselves into the next phase of their life after retirement,” he said. “That made a huge difference in my personal life  –  having that education and being prepared for that next step. I started preparing when I had only 10 years in the military I started preparing for that next step .”

Dorney agrees.

“We want them to start accessing all of these resources that are available in North Carolina as soon as possible so that when they do transition out of service, they have a good plan,” he said.

“We value their service to the country. We appreciate the skills that they bring and we provide one place where they can find the resources that are available to them.”