FORT DRUM — First lady Jill Biden is coming to Fort Drum on Monday to talk to families about employment opportunities with military wives.
Dr. Biden and Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks will visit the home of the 10th Mountain Division to meet with military families and leaders in the military-connected community to discuss improving employment opportunities for military spouses.
The visit, at the post’s Army Garrison Fort Drum, is part of the first lady’s Joining Forces initiative and one of its focus areas to increase economic security for military families.
The mission of Joining Forces is to support those who also serve — military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors.
The first lady’s work and priorities of Joining Forces are guided by the life experiences and the perspectives shared during listening sessions with military families.
Monday’s visit to Fort Drum by Dr. Biden is believed to be the first for a sitting first lady.
Local economic leaders also believe more should be done to help military families with employment issues.
Earlier in the day, the Watertown Local Development Corp. board, the city’s economic development arm, talked about keeping retiring Fort Drum soldiers and their families in the north country after their military service ends.
Especially with labor shortages continuing, the north country has a lot of employment opportunities for military spouses and for retiring soldiers, board members said.
Area companies also have a good track record for hiring them, they said. While training could be a sticking point, the business community can overcome that obstacle, board members said.
Every month, 300 soldiers retire from Fort Drum, with about one-third remaining in the north country and leaving a large workforce needing jobs, said board member Steve Hunt, who also serves as the regional director for Empire State Development.
Watertown Trust CEO Donald W. Rutherford said Knowlton Technologies, Roth Industries, Renzi Foodservice and other local companies are all enjoying successful financial times but all are in the need of more workers.
Board member Michael Pierce said more should be done to connect retiring soldiers and military spouses with those companies and jobs.
The board plans to discuss the issue more in the future.
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