Recap of 2019- December Executive Director Message

2019 has been an incredible year for the WI Veterans Chamber community.

Hello WI Veterans Chamber Community,

2019 has been an incredible year for the WI Veterans Chamber community. We have hit record numbers of attendance and have expanded our reach throughout the state. Our year started off with the Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to focus on National Guard and reserve members’ spouses, with the goal of reducing the economic impact of military spouse unemployment and underemployment on military families. This also led the charge for us to create our new program Invest in Vets.

We had our 3rd Annual Veterans Light Up the Arts in March. Where we had over 300 people in attendance with guests including Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Mary Kolar, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. This event is one of many that focuses on highlighting our nonprofit partners. Part of our mission is to give back to our community and we raised over $10,000 in 2019 to give back to our nonprofit partners.

In May former MLB commissioner Bud Selig joined us as our keynote speaker at the 4th Annual Wisconsin Veterans Business Conference. The event sold out with attendance hitting record numbers. We had 500 people attend the event with additional guest speakers Governor Tony Evers, Secretary Kolar and Executive Director of the US Veterans Chamber of Commerce Michael Zacchea. Our 2019 Community awards were presented to:

Veteran-owned business of 2019- Action Coach of Elm Grove
Veteran-friendly business of 2019- Price Erecting
Non profit partner of 2019 - VBOC- Veterans Business Outreach Center at WWBIC
Corporate partner of 2019- Associated Bank
Veteran leader of 2019- Guy Temple

Photo Credit: Fox 6  

As summer approached, I was honored to be the Keynote speaker at the 10th Annual Flag Day celebration at Marcus Center of Performing Arts. It was a great event to have folks come together to celebrate and share their experiences. Summer stayed a busy time for the Veterans Chamber. We expanded and hired new staff members. We have a team of seven hardworking and dedicated staff members who live and support the mission of the Veterans Chamber.

In August we announced that we will organize and lead a U.S. Census Complete Count Committee dedicated to engaging Wisconsin military service members, veterans and their families in the 2020 Census. U.S. Census Bureau’s Complete Count Committees are coalitions made of up individuals, groups and organizations dedicated to increasing awareness about the census and motivating residents to respond. The Census is foundational to the civic health of all our communities, including Wisconsin’s veteran community. We are proud to work with our community partners and stakeholders to ensure all veterans, service members and their families are counted accurately in the 2020 census.

Fall kicked off with our 4th Annual Veterans in the Workforce Summit. We are grateful to Baird for hosting this event at their conference center. This event sold out, and we had the pleasure of welcoming keynote speaker Bill Ball, US Army veteran and CEO of Grunau. At the Veterans in the Workforce Summit we launched our new program, Invest in Vets. The Invest in Vets 5-Star Program is designed to help companies of any size to have the proper resources, training and procedures in place to create empowering and inclusive workplaces for their military, veteran and/or spouse employees. This covers all areas of leadership within the business and requires all levels to be involved.

In order to qualify as an Invest in Vets 5-Star Employer, employers can take the Military Spouse and Veteran Internship Recruitment pledges. With more than 100 pledges made so far, employers are making public commitments to hiring military spouses or veteran interns in 2020. Our first 5-Star Invest in Vets Employer is Logistics Health Inc. set a high bar for employers in Wisconsin to meet in supporting the military and veteran affiliated employees, but we are confident that our business community will rise to the challenge.

To end the year, we hosted the 4th Annual Milwaukee Veterans Week. The week kicked off with our Veterans in the Workforce Awards Luncheon at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Our guest speaker, Mr. Bill Davidson, Director of the Harley-Davidson Museum, shared Harley-Davidson’s rich history of military and veteran involvement and support. The Veterans in the Workforce Awards recognizes the progress Wisconsin businesses have made in the areas of veteran and military spouse employment, the inclusion of veteran-owned businesses in diverse supplier pipelines and support of the military families in our communities. Award winners included:

Veteran Employer of the Year: Baird
Veteran Resource Group of the Year: Froedtert Health
Veteran Recruitment Campaign of the Year: Kohler
Veteran Community Supporter of the Year: WPS Health Solutions

We ended the week with our 4th Anniversary Veterans Chamber Muster at the Milwaukee Yacht Club. We were honored to highlight the members of the Milwaukee Yacht Club who sponsored a Milwaukee VA Medical Center series "Veterans Sailing Program" for 10 weeks. This program introduces veterans to the art and joy of sailing. Members of the Milwaukee Yacht Club volunteered their time, talents and vessels.

2019 was a great year for the Veterans Chamber, and we have exciting plans for 2020. We thank our members, sponsors, volunteers and partners for all they do. This record year would not be possible without your support. We look forward to growing with you in 2020.

Thank you for all you do.
Saul Newton