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Some 300 companies and organizations met Friday in Detroit for the Michigan Veteran Hiring Best Practices Summit, learning to create veteran hiring programs and how they can increase hiring of veterans.

General Motors Co., Walt Disney Co., USAA and the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency are sponsoring the event at GM’s headquarters. Both Gov. Rick Snyder and GM CEO Mary Barra encouraged the companies to hire more veterans. Michigan is home to 660,000 military veterans, some of whom are in search of careers, and 30,000 to 50,000 veterans in coming years are expected to transition from the military and move to Michigan.

The Detroit automaker has about 5,000 active and veteran military employees, and 45,000 GM retirees who were in the military.

“We hired about 500 last year and I’d like to see us beat that number in 2015,” said Steve Hill, GM’s vice president of sales, service and marketing and executive champion for GM’s military support and advocacy.

Barra said during the next five years, 120,000 U.S. service members each year will transition from their military careers. “There is a tremendous need for the private sector to hire our military members and their spouses right now,” she said.

Barra said GM’s relationship with and support of the military dates back more than a century.

“My father was a World War II veteran, a member of the Army 10th Mountain Division,” Barra told attendees. “He left General Motors when he was called to serve. General Motors welcomed him back and trained him to be a die maker, where he then served and had a wonderful 39-year career. So personally, the history of General Motors in supporting the military is very important to me.”

Snyder shared a story of a trip to Afghanistan about two years ago where he presided over a re-enlistment ceremony with the National Guard. The guard presented him with a flag — one that he keeps in his office.

“Every day when I see that flag, I know it’s the right thing to do to help veterans,” Snyder said.

The event, which is built from Disney’s “Heroes Work Here” program, includes panels featuring employers and veterans, workshops and speeches. ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff also is scheduled speak.

GM also Friday evening is hosting a fundraising gala with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund of Michigan to support returning veterans.

Hill said GM wants to raise enough money — $500,000 to $600,000 — to cover the cost of specially equipped home for a critically wounded veteran. “Our goal tonight is to actually build one for a gentleman who’s trying to come back to Michigan who lost three limbs recently in war,” Hill said.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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