MUSCLE SHOALS — The Southgate Mall parking lot outside Walgreens Customer Care Center is busier these days — a trend that likely will continue.
Walgreens, which opened its Muscle Shoals facility in 2004, completed an expansion last month that has pushed employment numbers past 400, call center General Manager Ben Groft said.
Groft said 220 workers have been hired because of the expansion. Coupled with existing employees, 405 people work at the facility.
“We’re expecting to hire 500 to 600 people when all is said and done,” Groft said. “It’s going really well. We started adding people once we announced the expansion.”
The building had some capacity available in August when the announcement was made, so there was space to place the initial groups of expansion workers, Groft said.
The 15,000-square-foot expansion brings the center’s size to 62,000 square feet, he said. The $3.9 million project added 189 seats, and Groft said hiring is ongoing.
“We’ll be adding another 20 people in March, and I’m not sure what the staffing plans are going forward after that, except I know the expectation is there will be more than 100 additional people over the next couple of years,” he said.
The pay scale depends on the position, but a customer care representative starts at $10.08 an hour, Groft said. They also are eligible for health benefits.
Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said the center is benefiting the entire Shoals.
“It’s pretty much evenly divided between Lauderdale and Colbert counties with the number of employees they have,” Bradford said.
Some workers also come from Franklin and Lawrence counties, as well as Mississippi and Tennessee, he said.
“It’s good to see that many people are working, smiling and doing an important job with new technology,” Bradford said. “It was quite impressive to see that many people and what Walgreens has done with the space they’ve had. They’ve been a great corporate partner to the Shoals.
“When Walgreens came here, it was when a lot of corporations were looking outside of the United States, and they made a commitment to stay within the U.S. boundaries.”
A 2012 legislative act was created to allow the Walgreens expansion. The bill allowed the Alabama Board of Pharmacy to create a pharmacy services permit for the customer care center.
The center had come to the pharmacy board’s attention as something it should be regulating. At that time, the board only had permits for facilities where medicines were kept or dispensed. Neither of those is the case at the call center.
Bradford said the Legislature came through by creating the law.
“That was critical,” he said. “It took a lot of help from a lot of people, especially from our local delegation. It took teamwork to make it happen.”
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.