PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Verizon announced new jobs for the area on Friday, at the Bay County and Panama City Beach Chambers’ “First Friday” event.

The company is bringing 30 home-based agent jobs to Panama City this year; it’s a small part of a bigger initiative to prioritize hiring military spouses in the community. 

“It basically allows our customer service agents to work out of their home,” said Kim Mirabella, Verizon’s Government Sales Director for the south market.

Mirabella said the program is usually only available in large cities, but Panama City leadership came forward.

“They said, ‘look, we really need opportunities for our military spouses and employment opportunities,” she said.

The military spouse unemployment rate is at 24 percent. That’s almost 8 times the local unemployment rate in Bay County.

When it comes to getting a job, military spouses face challenges that civilians don’t.

“This will be our fourth move,” said Tori Lynn Haudenschild, who’s husband is stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base. She said all the moves has made resume-building difficult and employers often shuffle her resume to the side.

“They didn’t understand maybe why I wasn’t there for a long amount of time,” she said.

Although the home-based agent jobs are open to everyone, Mirabella said the program blends well with the military lifestyle since it allows employees to work from home and keep their job even if they leave the area.

“I think military spouses would appreciate that,” said Haudenschild.

Verizon will begin recruiting for the home-based agent jobs in February.

The Department of Defense is looking closely at military communities like Bay County that are working to make those kinds of opportunities available.

“As part of a basing criteria for future mission beddowns, they will use as one of those criteria, what is the environment for spousal employment,” said Tyndall Air Force Base Commander, Col. Brian Laidlaw.

He said the MQ-9 and F-35 decisions have already been made and those programs are here to stay, but future mission decisions will be partly based on which communities are most supportive of military spousal employment and security.

A supportive job market in Bay County makes Tyndall Air Force Base and NSA Panama City more attractive for those future missions.

“This is another example of how the people of Bay County will go above and beyond to make this a better place for us to serve,” said Laidlaw.

The “First Friday” program stressed the importance of hiring military spouses throughout the community; CareerSource Gulf Coast has had an initiative for several years to help military spouses find as many opportunities and resources as possible in our area.

Over the last seven months, a committee of several Panama City leaders, professionals and residents has been coming up with further ideas to make the area as military family-friendly as possible. 

Glen McDonald, a Vice President of Gulf Coast State College is on that committee.

“We will come up with new things,” he said. “This will not be the end. We still have a lot to do and a lot of work to do and we’ll see if the things that we have done are going to work.”