Tom Walsh| Detroit Free Press

When Michelle Salvatore heard alarming data last year about the high jobless rates for military veterans — around 12% at the time — she thought, “Well this is crazy; we should hire more vets.”

As director of recruiting for fast-growing Quicken Loans, which is hiring more than 100 people a month, Salvatore was in a position to act on her impulse.

She went to Quicken CEO Bill Emerson and told him she wanted to hire a military recruiter. He said, ‘OK.’

Salvatore kept talking about how she would make a business case for creating the position, until Emerson stopped her, declaring, “I just said, ‘OK.’ What more do you need?”

Before long, Salvatore found her military recruiting specialist in John Gardner, a 23-year U.S. Air Force veteran. Gardner jumped into the role at Quicken even before his official
mid-July retirement from the military, where he had recently recruited pilots and engineers for the Air Force in Michigan and parts of Indiana and Ohio.

At Gardner’s urging, Quicken Loans is hosting and cosponsoring an event from 2-4 p.m. Friday, two days before Veterans Day, to encourage and assist local employers in hiring more veterans.

Titled “The Business Case for Hiring Veterans,” the event features a panel discussion that will include Gary Brown, Detroit City Council president pro tem and a former U.S. Marine, and Brigadier Gen. Michael Stone of the Michigan National Guard. Cosponsors are the Detroit Regional Chamber and the city’s Military & Veterans Task Force, chaired by Brown.

For information or to confirm attendance, e-mail Katey Maher of Brown’s office at or call 313-224-1204. The event will be held in the 15th-floor auditorium of the Compuware Building in Detroit. Parking will be available at the Compuware garage.

When I asked Gardner for key reasons why employers should consider military veterans, he replied, “Adaptability. We move to different cities, countries, on a moment’s notice. We can be trained and do well in any environment. We’re going to come to work, on time, every day.”

And the flip side? Why might a veteran not sound like the right fit?

“Sometimes, when they first get out,” Gardner said, “they have trouble speaking in what I call civilian-ese. They speak military,” Gardner said. “So part of what I do here at Quicken is I help veterans make connections, from writing a résumé to the way they talk.”

Gardner said his goal is to add “several hundred” veterans to the Quicken Loans payroll. Quicken and its affiliated companies employ about 160 now.

“John talks to every single applicant with a military background,” Salvatore said. “He helps them make the transition and looks for a fit with their skill sets.”

One of Gardner’s first moves after joining Quicken was to connect with Brown and join the Military & Veterans Task Force.

And Brown was ecstatic to have Quicken, which is probably hiring more people right now than any other employer in the city, putting an emphasis on veterans.

“There was no comprehensive list of laws and incentives for hiring vets,” Brown said after forming the Detroit task force last fall. “That’s why we thought an event to educate businesses would be a good idea.”

Contact Tom Walsh: 313-223-4430 or

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