On Tuesday, Kuni Automotive Group CEO Greg Goodwin will accept a Patriot Award from a military-based organization that works to support veterans. But Goodwin is quick to defer to others in his Vancouver-based company, which owns 15 luxury car dealerships in four states, for their work on a companywide initiative to expand job opportunities for vets.
“I don’t feel I deserve any credit,” said Goodwin, who became Kuni’s CEO in 1999. “It’s all about letting that (veteran) community know that we are supporting them.”
The award is being bestowed by the organization Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense-based program dedicated to supporting the employment of National Guard and Reserve members.
Art McCallum of Camas, who is the program’s area chair for Portland and Southwest Washington, said the award is given to employers who “go above and beyond” in their support of a military service member or a service member’s spouse. The awards are given based on a recommendation of an employee or family member.
The award to Goodwin comes at a time when the auto group, with luxury dealerships in Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado, is making an aggressive effort to hire more military veterans. While many companies work to increase veteran hiring, Kuni’s effort is unusual because of its workforce size and its far-flung operations, including some dealerships located near military bases.
What: Patriot Award will be given to Greg Goodwin, CEO of Kuni Automotive Group. Kuni employees and the public are invited to the ceremony.
When: 11 to 11:45 a.m. today
Where: Kuni Garage, 17800 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Suite 190, Vancouver.
Details: Art McCallum, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve area chair for Portland and Southwest Washington, and Joel Scott, the organization’s employer outreach director for the state, will attend.
Kuni, with no Clark County dealerships, has more than 1,500 employees companywide; less than 5 percent are military veterans, said Ken Jackson, the company’s human resources vice president.
About two-thirds of employees work in either sales or technician jobs at the dealership level, Jackson said. Most others are in administration or management at dealerships in the Vancouver corporate office, dubbed the Kuni Garage.
Goodwin hired Jackson, a former human resources executive at the large Georgia-based Asbury Automotive Group, late last year and assigned him the task of bringing more vets into the company.
“I asked him to put in place a program that was more than just stating an intention to recruit and hire veterans, but actually putting a specific process in place,” Goodwin said.
Since the launch, Jackson has developed military-oriented recruitment materials that the company and its dealerships can use in recruiting events; launched targeted advertising by placing banner ads on civilianjobs.com, a jobs site for military members returning to the workforce; and hired a jobs recruiter whose duties include developing relationships with the military at sites near company dealerships. Kuni Automotive also is about to enter into a relationship with Hero2Hired, a Department of Defense-backed veteran hiring program that focuses on finding employment for National Guard and military reserve members.
Kuni’s dealerships, which sell BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Cadillac, and Porsche brands among others, offer a large number of well-paying jobs. Jackson said qualified auto technicians, or mechanics, can earn good wages in the industry.
“A technician (job) is probably one of the most stable and well-paid positions in automotive,” he said. “It is a career where one can stay a long period of time.”
But recruitment isn’t limited to jobs in auto maintenance and sales: Kuni has learned that many veterans are looking for management positions and have the skills to succeed at that level, Jackson said.
The company’s success has been modest so far, with six recent hires of veterans, Goodwin said. The program’s goal is to attract at least 50 veterans into the company “and try to grow it from there,” Goodwin said. “We have to build brand awareness, and you can do that once you have a few hired.”
Art McCallum from the Guard and Reserve support program will participate in today’s award ceremony. He praised Kuni for its effort to hire more veterans. “To have a business go after an initiative to hire veterans first, that’s a good thing,” McCallum said.
Kuni has an advantage over many companies in launching such a program, he added. “They’re in the sales business,” he said. “That will help them. They know that.”