By STEVEN NALLEY
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership office will host a friendly competition between the Mississippi and Alabama chapters of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to obtain pledges from employers to support members of the U.S. National Guard and Reserve starting at 9 a.m. today.
The competition is the first of its kind across all ESGR chapters and could become a template for ESGR to use in other venues.
According to the ESGR’s website, the organization works to inform and educate employers about rights and responsibilities they have toward employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve. The site also says ESGR recognizes and rewards employers who go “over and above” the legal requirements.
An employer can sign a Statement of Support with ESGR, pledging to recognize, honor and enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act, to give managers and supervisors the tools needed to manage employees serving in the Guard and Reserve, and to continually recognize and support those employees.
Jack Wallace, OCEDA president, is also chairman for ESGR’s Mississippi chapter. Wallace said the Mississippi and Alabama chapters will compete to see who can get the most employers from their respective states to sign ESGR Statements of Support at the GSDP office.
“What I said (to the Alabama chapter) was, ‘Since you’re coming over here to play us in football, why don’t you come over here and let us do a joint signing of Alabama and Mississippi employers, and my national office smiled on it,” Wallace said. “As a matter of fact, the regional deputy director of the ESGR from Washington, a Lt. Col. (David P.) Eldridge, will also be here. He is flying in to be part of the proceedings and part of the fun.”
Wallace said this is the first time the ESGR has used a college football game as a backdrop for an inter-state campaign to sign up employers, and Eldridge will be evaluating the possibility of using the format elsewhere. He said the competition is merely friendly, with no prizes for the winner except the satisfaction of helping a good cause.
“We would do anything to help them, and they would do anything to help us,” Wallace said. “We’re all in the same business, and we’re all proud when one has success. We’re just as proud for an employer in Alabama to support the Guard and Reserve as we are for an employer in Mississippi, so there’s no true competition. It’s just in the spirit of a football competition that we’re going to do this. It seemed like a fun thing to do.”
Jon Maynard, GSDP president, said while this is the Mississippi ESGR’s first time challenging a counterpart in another state, it is not the first time it has held a drive for Statements of Support. Past drives have been word-of-mouth efforts combined with a “Boss Lift,” where selected employers are invited to tour a military installation and get firsthand experience with military equipment, Maynard said.
“We will be open all day at the Partnership and we hope to have as many local employers as possible come by and sign a statement of support,” Maynard said. “There is no monetary contribution, only a statement that they can frame and put in their place of business.”