Richard Hartnett Associate Manager, Communications and Strategy

Published

October 16, 2021

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Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood is nestled on the city’s South Side off the Red Line stations at 79th and 87th streets. Foodies might know the neighborhood as the location of Lem’s Bar-B-Q, often hailed as Chicago’s best rib tips. It’s also the home of multi-platinum recording artist Chance the Rapper. Now, the neighborhood is home to another innovation—and one that has business leaders taking a closer look.    

At the intersection of E. 86th Street and Cottage Grove, Discover CEO and President Roger Hochschild saw an opportunity. In a vacant retail store building, Discover is creating a 100,000+ square foot customer care center that will provide nearly 1,000 full-time jobs to the community. 

Read more from the Business is... series for other ways the business community is stepping up solve our biggest challenges.

Discover is prioritizing hiring local talent and has committed to employing minority-owned businesses in the renovations and operation of the center. But the community connections don’t stop there. The new call center will be led by Juatise Gathings, who grew up in the community and has worked in three Discover customer care centers during her nearly 10 years with the company. 

In a discussion with U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark as part of the Chamber’s National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, Hochschild laid out the company’s vision.  

“If you think about a company and a team looking for a new location, they don’t say ‘let’s go to a predominantly black or brown neighborhood,’ instead, they say, ‘let’s go to where there is a highly educated workforce with great schools and a low crime rate, good transportation, good infrastructure,’” said Hochschild. 

“All of these perpetuate the unequal opportunity in our society. So, we decided we would do our part to break that cycle and open a new customer care center in an economically challenged area right here in our home town in Chicago.”

Most of the open positions will be for customer care representatives, and the positions come with a focus on career development and the opportunity to receive a free college education effective on the first day of employment. 

The new Discover call center supports Chicago’s INVEST South/West initiative. Launched in 2019, the initiative is an innovative public-private partnership to encourage business and community investment in the city’s disinvested neighborhoods. Discover’s investment on the South Side also supports Together We Rise: For an Equitable and Just Recovery, a program helping to ensure a fair and equitable recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Paying off, in more ways than one 

Discover’s investment in Chatham is paying off. For the first 20 jobs posted for the center, over 1,300 applications were submitted, and every job was filled. Additionally, in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Hochschild noted that the Chatham location is the leader among all customer care centers operated by Discover for customer satisfaction and staff retention.  

“Having employees work in the community, not having long commutes, lets them do the types of things that I think many of us take for granted,” Hochschild said. “They can volunteer with their kids. They can volunteer with their church.”

Discover’s investment in the neighborhood is about more than jobs or customer satisfaction surveys. It’s about community. Throughout the acquisition and hiring process, Discover prioritized involvement from the local business community by offering contracts for the center’s construction. Adjacent to the center, Discover is also developing a 5,000 sq. ft. space for use by local community organizations.  

The success of Discover’s investment in Chatham demonstrates the power of opportunity. It’s also a testament that when businesses are willing to invest in people and their local communities, the rewards can extend far beyond the bottom line.  

To learn more about Discover’s Chatham Customer Care Center visit www.discover.com/shinebright.  

Learn more about the U.S. Chamber's Equality of Opportunity Initiative

About the authors

Richard Hartnett

Richard Hartnett

Associate Manager, Communications and Strategy

Richard is an associate manager on the communications and strategy team.

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