Texas VFW Names Storm Computer Employer of the Year

To say that Scott Storm, founder of Storm Computer in Wichita Falls, Texas, is a pro-veteran employer is putting it lightly. He hired six veterans – most from nearby Sheppard Air Force Base – in 2012. Two have since left the company. Three of the four veterans remaining in Storm’s employ have some form of disability. Storm, a CompTIA ambassador and blue ribbon volunteer, has faith in their abilities.

“We’ll have a meeting in the morning, I’ll lay out what has to be done that day, and then I’ll walk away, go out to sell ice cubes to the Eskimos [and] know these guys have my back,” he said. “With a civilian employee, most times I don’t know that.”

For Storm Computer’s “outstanding service in hiring of veterans,” on June 13, the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) recognized the company with its “Employer of the Year” award for businesses with fewer than 250 employees. The award was presented to Storm at the opening session of the Texas VFW state convention in Corpus Christi, Texas, and recognized him not only for hiring veterans in 2012 but also for his personal efforts to promote veteran employment. Storm Computer is also listed on the Troops to Tech Careers corporate registry of companies that have committed to prioritize the hiring of IT certified veterans.

“Scott’s efforts are great example for all our members,” says Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA’s president and CEO. “The IT field is a great career opportunity for vets and it’s wonderful to see Scott stepping up and filling a void.”

From Hiring to Advocacy

Beyond staffing his own small business with veterans, Storm has connected fellow business owners with Tim Shatto, the Texas Veterans Commission’s local veterans employment representative, resulting in four additional veterans being hired. He brought Shatto to a regional CompTIA conference and also talked with congressmen and senators about the success he’s had hiring veterans as a small business owner and the employment challenges veterans face.

Scott said this is the best recognition he’s earned during Storm Computer’s 29 years of operation. “When hiring vets, you’re dealing with people’s lives [and] their families’ lives,” he said.

Storm said he has hired veterans over the years because it was difficult to find people with the technical skills needed in his area, which is somewhat remote. His hiring of veterans intensified in 2012 after he built a working relationship with Shatto, who pre-screens veterans and matches veterans’ skills and abilities with employer needs.

Storm said he’s never taken advantage of the tax breaks or training support available to employers who hire veterans, but his company does not have to pay for veterans’ health insurance because that is a part of their military benefits. “That’s a big thing,” he said.

More important to Storm, veterans have “a loyalty built into them. They are there to push the cart forward.”

Storm interviews veteran employee prospects candidly and at length; asking veterans about any known issues and spelling out his company’s ground rules. He will accommodate a veteran’s disability but Storm is also disabled (from a car accident) and permits no excuses. “I don’t let people hide behind a disability,” he said.

Ultimately, Storm wants his employees to fit into the company’s family atmosphere and learn. “When I bring one in for an interview, I tell them ‘Not only am I going to teach you computers, but I’m also going to teach you business,’” Storm said.

A Great Asset

In mid-June, the Texas Workforce Commission had a database of 486 veterans in the Wichita Falls area who are looking for work. In response to federal budget cuts and sequestration, Sheppard Air Force Base, the largest local employer, had cut or reduced the hours of employees. Beyond the base, “there’s not much local industry down here,” said Shatto. “It’s more populated with small business owners and small organizations.”

Shatto nominated Storm for the VFW award. “Scott has been a great asset for us,” Shatto said, pointing to how Storm has actively campaigned for veteran employment and helped veterans improve their employability. For example, Shatto said, Storm hired a veteran who had worked in military supply and warehouse logistics, but was interested in computers. “Scott brought him into his warehouse and got him working on getting his CompTIA A+ certification,” said Shatto. “Not only did he hire on a veteran but he helped walk that veteran through the steps that will give him tangible skills and certifications later on in his career.”
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