January 3 2019

CEG Establishing the Veteran Connect Center to Replenish Region’s Ranks of Veterans

AAA Hudson Valley and BBL Foundation are Center’s first sponsors

ALBANY – With the Capital Region projected to lose a quarter of its working-age veterans over the next 10 years, the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) is spearheading an effort that aims to attract to the area and assist transitioning service members and their families from around the globe.

Veteran Connect Center

In 2018, CEG launched the Veteran Connect Center (VCC). AAA Hudson Valley today became the VCC’s first sponsor with a $5,000 check, and the BBL Foundation is also contributing $2,500. Across all military branches and worldwide, the VCC will market the Capital Region to these transitioning service members and their families and connect them to local career, educational and community resources. For the veterans already in the region, the VCC will help them identify workforce and educational opportunities as well as connect them to other support services. Additionally, the VCC will provide programming and information to local businesses and institutions interested in hiring, educating and supporting veterans.

“When service members end their military careers, many are looking for jobs where they can utilize their unique skills and experiences, or a place where they or their children can use their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits,” said CEG President and CEO Andrew Kennedy. “With our abundance of technology and manufacturing companies and 24 colleges and universities, the Capital Region has much to offer to these new veterans. So, whether they are at Fort Drum, Germany or Guam, CEG’s Veteran Connect Center will be the region’s first point of contact for transitioning service members and assist them in moving here and setting down roots. We’ll also be helping veterans already in the region make the connections they need to stay and thrive here.”


Throughout 2018, CEG convened a Veterans Committee to plan for and oversee the VCC. CEG’s Veteran Committee includes about 20 individuals representing the military, academia and business. It is chaired by Michael Swezey, a retired brigadier general with the New York National Guard and a vice president and senior financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. The committee’s vice chair is Joshua Toas, a former Army Reserve captain and vice president of compliance and chief compliance officer at the SUNY Research Foundation.

AAA Hudson Valley presents $5,000 check for the Veteran Connect Center. AAA Hudson Valley President and CEO Michele Van Epps, Ret. Brig. Gen. and Veteran Connect Center Board Chair Michael Swezey, Center for Economic Growth President and CEO Andrew Kennedy and AAA Hudson Valley Board Chair Robert Blackman.


“Other parts of the state are aggressively pursuing transitioning service members to help bolster their economies, and the Capital Region needs to up its game if it wants them to live and work here. With there being tens of thousands fewer active duty service members now than a decade ago, new veterans are becoming a rarer talent commodity and tech hubs around the country are clamoring for them. Veterans have long been a valued staple in the Capital Region’s workforce, and the VCC is our way of ensuring they stay that way,” said Swezey.


The VCC will work with the existing network of veterans support services by 1. streamlining and simplifying the relocation process to the eight-county region for transitioning service members; 2. training businesses and educational institutions to meet veterans’ needs; 3. tracking progression and impacts; 4. connecting veterans to other services; and 5. advocating for veterans and program needs.


“Transitioning from military life to civilian life is a challenge, but so is navigating the many services available to transitioning service members and their families. The Veteran Connect Center will streamline and simplify that process while putting the Capital Region on the radar of transitioning service members and their families who are looking to begin a new chapter in their lives. AAA Hudson Valley has a long history of helping veterans get to where they need to go, and we are happy to support the VCC and help them find a home in the Capital Region,” said AAA Hudson Valley President and CEO Michele Van Epps.


Veteran Population Projections

Veterans play a vital role in the Capital Region’s economy. In 2017, the region’s working-age veteran labor force participation rate was 78.6 percent, compared to 73.8 percent for the state and 75.8 percent for the nation. Throughout the region’s eight counties, there were 31,577 veterans between 17 and 64 years old, with 24,828 of them participating in the civilian labor force, according to U.S. Census Bureau five-year estimates.


However, between the growing ranks of Vietnam-Era veterans approaching retirement age, veteran mobility and a 5.6 percent decline in service members over the past decade, the Capital Region is expected to see its ranks of working-age veterans dwindle by 25 percent over the next 10 years, according to actuarial projection data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. While that was the second-lowest working-age veteran loss rate among New York’s 10 economic development regions and below the state average rate of -29 percent, it poses a threat to the size and quality of the Capital Region’s labor force.


CEG’s Past Veteran Initiatives

In 2017, CEG recognized the need for – and local employers’ interest in – attracting more veterans to the Capital Region. That prompted CEG to send its Talent Connect staff to Fort Drum for its quarterly Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL TAP) Career and Education Fairs. Since August 2017, Talent Connect staff have represented Capital Region employers and educational institutions at four SFL TAP fairs. Hundreds of soldiers whose military careers are ending regularly attend these events to learn about civilian job prospects or G.I. Bill benefit-related educational opportunities. The VCC will be an extension of these veteran recruitment efforts.


For additional information or to talk to CEG President and CEO Andrew Kennedy or CEG Veteran Committee Chairman Michael Swezey, please contact CEG Director of Research and Communications James Schlett at 518-465-8975 X221 or jamess@ceg.org.


About CEG

The Center for Economic Growth (CEG) is the Capital Region’s primary regional economic development organization, with over 230 investors in business, government, education, and the not-for-profit sectors. CEG is a New York Empire State Development Division of Science, Technology and Innovation-designated Regional Technology Development Center and an affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)/Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).





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