Mark Wilson, CEO Chime Solutions

A black-owned company near Atlanta is expanding into Charlotte, bringing with it a promise to create 1,000 call center jobs within the next year – jobs the owner says he hopes to locate in one of the city’s economically challenged corridors.

Mark Wilson, CEO of Chime Solutions of Morrow, Georgia, told Qcitymetro the jobs will offer a starting wage of at least $14 an hour after training, a pay rate he said is above the industry average. Wilson said the company already is training between 250 and 300 people in Charlotte.

Mayor Vi Lyles made the announcement Tuesday morning at the Urban League of Central Carolinas.

City officials who spoke with Qcitymetro said they could recall no similar instance of a black-owned business expanding to Charlotte. (Chime also plans to open a call center in Dallas, Texas, where it would create an additional 1,000 jobs, its CEO said.)

In Charlotte, Chime’s call-center employees will provide customer service assistance for a company that specializes in human resource services. Wilson said Chime does little work in the sector that involves outgoing sales calls.

A big win for Charlotte

City Council member James Mitchell, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, described the announcement as a big win for Charlotte, noting that, in Georgia, Chime is committed to the economic mobility of its employees. There, he said, Chime encourages its employees to save and buy homes.

“When you talk about upward mobility in Charlotte, these are they type of companies we look for,” Mitchell said.

In Morrow, about 17 miles south of Atlanta, Chime employs about 1,500 people in a 120,000-square-feet space that once housed a J.C. Penny store, Wilson said. The space is inside the Southlake Mall in Clayton County.

Wilson said he chose the location, in part, because Clayton has one of Georgia’s highest rates of unemployment. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county was home to just under 290,000 people last year. About 72% were black, and 16% lived in poverty.)

“We’re focused on trying to bring jobs to these underprivileged communities where there’s really a need for the work,” Wilson said.

10,000 jobs in three years

Wilson said Chime represents his second foray into the call-center industry. His first business, he said, he started in the basement of his home and sold 10 years later in 2010. Then in late 2015, he said, he and his management team decided to re-enter the industry, this time with “mission and purpose.”

Wilson said his goal is to create 10,000 jobs nationwide over the next two to three years. Charlotte and Dallas, he said, represent the company’s first expansions beyond Morrow.

“We had some success there. It felt like we made a difference in the community, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and expand that model to various cities around the county where there is a need,” Wilson said.

On the company’s Facebook page, photos shows scenes from health-and-wellness events, financial seminars, employee celebrations, and “town hall” meetings where Wilson shares company news with a team of employees that is predominately black.

Wilson began considering Charlotte as a possible expansion city after talking with Frank Emory Jr., a Novant Health executive who chairs the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, according to Mitchell. Wilson said he felt Charlotte would be a good fit, given the city’s focus on economic mobility.

In Morrow, Chime provides its workers with daycare support, home-ownership seminars and access to credit-repair services – all designed for economic uplift, Wilson said.

Mayor Lyles said that while the company will pay entry-level wages, the fact that its employees will have benefits such as childcare and health insurance “will make a difference in where we are really trying to build upward mobility.”

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles

City officials said Chime will receive no financial incentives related to its Charlotte expansion, but Mitchell said the city is committed to helping the company find a suitable location.

Lyles told Qcitymetro the city is focused on finding space along either the Freedom Drive or Beatties Ford Road corridors.

Chime has scheduled the following job fairs:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 24: from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at NCWorks Career Center, 5601 Executive Center Dr, #100
  • Wednesday, Sept 25: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Urban League of Central Carolinas, 704 West Fifth Street

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.