On August 22, The Grounds Guys of Jacksonville owner and veteran, Rick Santo, joined forces with First Lady Michelle Obama at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida for the announcement that more than 2,000 companies had hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses since the initial launch of the Joining Forces White House initiative in 2011.
The Joining Forces campaign was launched in an effort to support American veterans and their families during their employment, education and wellness endeavors. President Barack Obama asked the first lady to direct Joining Forces, while challenging for-profit businesses to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. According to White House officials, this effort has resulted in a 20 percent decrease in veteran unemployment compared to last year.
“I want to send a very clear message to the men and women who are wearing – or who have worn – our country’s uniform and to their spouses: when you have finished your service to our nation, you’ve got 2,000 great American companies ready and waiting to bring you on board”, First Lady Michelle Obama announced at Mayport Naval Station.
In June 2012, Santo, who served in the army for four years, opened his own The Grounds Guys franchise in Jacksonville, Fla., serving commercial and residential customers with landscape maintenance, landscape enhancements and other services. “I explored many franchise opportunities and landed on The Grounds Guys for a wealth of reasons. Through its veterans program, I was able to fulfill my dream of owning my own business and I support the opportunity to assist other veterans do the same”, stated Santo.
The Grounds Guys is a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group®, whose founder, Don Dwyer, Sr., founded VetFran in 1991 in order to assist military veterans open their own franchise. Today, almost 500 franchisors have joined the VetFran program. The Dwyer Group has helped 260 veterans open a franchise within its brands, and has awarded $1.4 million in financial discounts. In 2012, G.I. Jobs magazine named The Grounds Guys as a Military Friendly Franchise®. The Grounds Guys also ranks #40 on 1851’s Top 100 Franchises for Vets list.
On Nov. 11, 2011, The Dwyer Group joined the International Franchise Association and Michelle Obama in launching Operation Enduring Opportunity, a movement to hire and recruit 75,000 veterans and their spouses and 5,000 wounded warriors by 2014. Since the launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity, The International Franchise Association reports that over 7,200 veterans have begun careers in franchising, 4,200 of which are new franchise owners.