Sam’s Club could be ticket out of unemployment for many in Elgin
By Mike Danahey email@example.com July 24, 2012 8:58PM
Potential employees fill out applications for the new Sam's Club opening up on Randall Road in Elgin at the Sam's Club Hiring Center in South Elgin on Tuesday July 24, 2012. | Katherine Peters~Sun-Times Media
The Sam’s Club hiring center, 240 Randall Road, South Elgin, is taking applications from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Interested applicants can also apply online at http://walmartstores.com/Careers.
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:09AM
With a smile on her face, Zhennie Graf headed into the Sam’s Club hiring center in South Elgin late Tuesday morning to check on an employment application she had filed online.
“You have to have a positive attitude. I always try to do that,” Graf said.
Graf is among the 1,000 or so people who have applied so far to work at the new Sam’s Club in Elgin, which is set to open at the southwest corner of Randall and Bowes roads Aug. 29.
Store manager Shoaib Iqbal said the employment center at 240 Randall Road near the Goodwill store has been open since early June. Iqbal said he has hired about 90 people thus far with plans to have 190 on board by the time the store opens.
All told, counting management, the store will be staffed with more than 200 employees, about 30 to 40 of them full-time, Iqbal said.
The hiring center will be running until the store’s opening, and people can apply online or at the South Elgin spot. The space has been set up with prop products to give a Sam’s Club feel to it. Along with applying for a job, visitors to the South Elgin center can purchase Sam’s Club memberships with special offers geared toward bringing them into the new Elgin store.
Job hopefuls also can fill out applications at onsite computer terminals, which about 20 people were doing Tuesday. Depending on the flow, some are interviewed on the spot, Iqbal said.
The jobs available pay $9 per hour and up, Iqbal said, with assistant managers earning about $50,000 or so. Iqbal noted he is still looking to fill a broad range of positions: supervisors, cashiers, sales associates, greeters, cart attendants, tire installers, gas station workers, pharmacy technicians and even opticians.
Working way up
Iqbal has been with the Walmart-owned company for 14 years and began his career as a part-time cashier at a Sam’s Club in Kansas City, Mo. He was assistant manager of the Sam’s Club in Saint Joseph, Mo., and was promoted to club manager of the Salina, Kan., Sam’s Club. Iqbal most recently was market membership sales manager based in the Omaha, Neb., Sam’s Club where he worked with 13 Sam’s Clubs throughout Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. He and his family now live in Bartlett.
Iqbal noted that compared to when he started “a lot more people are applying. Here for the Elgin store it’s been a very diverse group of people. I’ve been able to hire a lot of very qualified associates.”
Full-time workers are eligible to participate in the company’s health insurance plan after six months of employment. Part time workers also are eligible for health insurance coverage, but after being with the company for a year, Iqbal said.
In Graf’s case, the job would be a second stint with Sam’s Club. She said she worked at the Batavia location as a new business representative for a time and was let go in January 2010.
“I still ask people if they have a Sam’s Club membership,” she said.
Graf noted her husband, Daniel, is unemployed and has been looking for a new job for two years. He was a projectionist for the Loews Cinema chain and was downsized as technology changed and the company merged with AMC, Graf said.
She had been working part-time at the Elgin Meijer and the Golden Corral restaurant, but Meijer let her go because she couldn’t give the store enough of her weekend hours with having the second job, leaving her with the one job.
The couple has tapped into savings and has an $8,000 property tax bill, along with utility bills as its financial obligations.
“It’s a good thing our house is paid for,” Graf said.
The family’s story illustrates the fact that unemployment in Elgin, while heading down from a year ago, remains high. The preliminary unemployment rate in Elgin for May 2012 was 9.6 percent, compared to the May 2011 rate of 11.7 percent.
One example of local businesses hit hard by the recession (along with new competition in Des Plaines) is one of the city’s largest employers — the Grand Victoria Casino.
According to Illinois Gaming Board reports, the casino had 828 employees at the end of 2011, down from 973 at the end of 2010 and 1,641 in 1999.
Iqbal said he has hired at least three people and as many as five who at one time worked at the downtown riverboat.
Elgin will see 90 more Randall Road retail and restaurant sector jobs early next year when a Portillo’s opens on the same lot that holds the Sam’s Club.
Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce President Carol Gieske noted efforts are being made to draw higher paying jobs to Elgin, too.
In winter, the city council approved funding an arm of the EACC known as the Economic Development Group with $275,000. The funds are from tax money that the city gets from the Grand Victoria.
The most recent example will be discussed tonight when the city council mulls a proposed economic incentive agreement for the construction of a 45,000-square-foot research lab, office space and warehouse facility at 2150 Point Blvd. for Amano Enzymes, Inc.
According to supporting material for the meeting, Amano is a Japanese multinational corporation that is “the world’s leading in producer of specialty enzymes for food processing, healthcare and diagnostic applications.”
In addition to retaining 18 jobs, the new facility would allow Amano to move a portion of its manufacturing operations from Japan to Elgin and potentially create approximately 12 more full-time jobs.
The city’s economic incentive proposal would be with Pancor Construction and Development, the business behind the project. It would fast-track the permit process for the construction of Amano’s new $9 million facility. The city would also commit to waiving building permit fees estimated in the amount of $36,500 for the construction.