Helping our heroes by hiring them

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Over the past week and weekend, many of us spent time honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, their sacrifice and their commitment to our country. No matter what we do to honor them, we cannot say “thank you” enough.

Area businesses have flown the stars and stripes, hosted sales and provided discounts to salute these dedicated men and women, but what they need even more than those kind gestures is steady work when they return from their service.

As The United States’ presence overseas winds down, Colorado businesses will experience an even greater surge of veterans seeking jobs. Many veterans have years of cross-cultural experience, have forged leadership skills in situations the rest of us can’t begin to imagine and have developed a vocabulary and an ethic that does not recognize the word “fail.” We know these skills transfer to what businesses often need.

Further, many returning veterans are seeking college and advanced degrees as they transition to civilian life. Armed with a comprehensive education benefits package – thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill – more veterans than ever are seeking post-secondary education.

The University of Colorado at Denver is currently educating 700 student veterans and that number is expected to grow to more than 2,100 over the next three years.

The Veteran Student Organization at CU Denver, along with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is seeking to ease this transition by helping veterans shift from their roles as service men and women to students and, from there, to business people and leaders in our community. One of the ways this transition will be accomplished is through a newly created “Boots to Suits” program, which matches students with mentors in the business community to help them find a new path and gain experience.

If you would like more information about becoming a mentor to a veteran, or about the skills these veterans have that can be helpful to your business, contact Cameron Cook at  or Mike Petschel at

In March 2012, our Denver Metro Small Business Development Center will host its second NxLevel for Veterans, an intensive, 12-week business planning course that takes participants through a step-by-step approach to writing a professional business plan. Over the next several months, the SBDC will also be increasing its other efforts to help veteran entrepreneurs.

The White House says this sector of our population alone faces unemployment rates of 12.1 percent, compared to 9 percent for the overall population. Further, more than 850,000 veterans were unemployed in October alone. The U.S. Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes career fairs have resulted in jobs for 3,400 veterans and military spouses and 50 wounded warriors. Another such job fair will be held in Ft. Carson on Dec. 7.

Lastly, the White House announced today that 94 United States senators voted last week to pass two tax credits for businesses that hire veterans. The Returning Heroes Tax Credit provides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, while the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit offers companies that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.

I hope one of the Colorado programs might of interest to you. We will keep sharing information about how you can show your appreciation for their service and help those veterans returning to our state.


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