CHATHAM — A closed Target store in East Chatham is slated to be the new home for a Discover Financial Services’ customer care center, the latest in a series of development projects under the INVEST South/West umbrella.
The 100,000-square-foot call center at 8560 S. Cottage Grove Ave. will bring hundreds of full-time jobs to the area and provide employees with career advancement opportunities, including a free college education, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference Thursday.
Discover has already hired 125 residents this year and plans to expand that to 1,000 hires by 2024. DL3 Realty will be in charge of building a “state-of-the-art” space, expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The Target the building once housed closed in 2019, along with another location in Morgan Park. South Side community leaders and elected officials blasted the company for the move, calling it “classic disinvestment” in the South Side.
Lightfoot praised the Invest South/West team and Discover CEO Roger Hochschild for their efforts to get the center running, saying the project illustrated the importance of public and private sector relationships.
“This is what inclusive, equitable development looks like. In order to put this terrible pandemic in the rearview mirror and ensure our recovery, we must seize this moment as an opportunity to foster inclusive economic growth across our entire city, especially in communities that are struggling the most,” Lightfoot said.
In addition to the call center, Discover will provide 5,000 square feet of space for neighborhood meetings and events.
The financial giant will post 20 leadership and customer service openings in April, with plans to start 16 agents in June, according to city officials. They aim to hire and train 15 additional agents every three months, with 150 in place by the end of the year. Pay for customer representatives start at $17.25 per hour. Full-time employees will receive full benefits.
While the focus is on in-person training, Discover says it’s fully prepared to have workers go remote if necessary. Employees will work in a temporary location in Chatham while the building is being renovated.
“Discover recognizes that traditional corporate site selection has contributed to issues of unequal opportunity in our society, and we want to be part of the solution,” Hochschild said in a statement. “We hope our commitment to Chatham will serve as a springboard for further economic development in the area; and we’re excited to work with residents and community leaders and add to our award-winning customer service team.”
Discover is also partnering with Skills For Chicagoland’s Future, which will collaborate with community organizations to connect residents to jobs.
The call center will be managed by Roseland native Juanise Gathings, who has been with the company for more than a decade. Gathings said providing residents with a livable wage and meaningful employment will be “significant for the community.”
“Growing up, my mom and I had to travel downtown to find these things. I always knew, and still know, how much talent resides in communities like Chatham, so it’s important that we provide these opportunities,” said Gathings.
Residents interested in learning more about job opportunities with Discover are invited to check this website.
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