Ron Poland

Ron Poland (August 11, 2014)

Throughout the country, we honor military members, veterans and defense workers for their service to the nation. Their efforts enhance national security and contribute to the vitality of local economies across the United States.

Currently, 1.6 million veterans call Florida home. More than 85,000 military and civilian personnel and 750,000 jobs contribute more than $70 billion to our economy. With 20 major military installations, Florida's armed-services and defense companies are vital economic contributors. In 2013, Florida's economy surpassed $800 billion, in part because of the contributions of those military installations and the diverse businesses supporting defense programs.

Despite success, we face an uncertain future due to sequestrations and federal budget debates. With many businesses relying on defense contracts and subcontracts, working together will determine how we maintain positive momentum beyond 2030.

The Florida Chamber Foundation focuses on identifying solutions to these challenges. Given the vital contribution military and defense make to Florida, and Florida's commitment to veterans, the foundation is hosting a Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit in Orlando on Wednesday. Industry leaders, policymakers and the business community will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing our state.

For nearly 100 years, the Boeing Co. has been committed to supporting our nation's military personnel, veterans and their families. We recognize that service in defense of a nation is an enduring mission, and for many, it continues well beyond their military service. The value these individuals bring to jobs and communities is nearly unmatched.

We want to help our armed-service members and their families transition into civilian life. They have technical skills, experience and leadership acumen — and we're working to match their skills and experiences to our needs. We also have more than 23,000 employee veterans across the country and work with organizations like National Veterans Homeless Support, Work Vessels for Veterans, and others to provide support to reduce and eliminate veteran homelessness, give veteran-owned businesses the tools and resources needed , and offer veterans the ability to serve their country in new ways.

Efforts like these, and those of organizations like the Chamber Foundation, will help ensure a prosperous future for the state, and the military and defense industry on which it depends.

Ron Poland is director of operations, Jacksonville Programs, for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.