Cover Story: Red Cross - adding Charlotte jobs

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - You'd think double digit unemployment would be absolutely bad for everyone.  If you're looking for work, you're in the center of this storm.

But for Charlotte the struggling economy has opened a tiny window of opportunity to craft a different future and it's starting to pay off.

There was an announcement on Wednesday of 400 new jobs coming-- what role did unemployment play?  Some would say a big role.

Strange as it sounds because of our double digit unemployment Charlotte can sell itself to companies who need workers.  And the city is doing that.

"Other than someone who is taking the blood.. these are frontline people."

They're as vital to the work of the Red Cross in collecting blood as those who work the blood banks.

"Hello Judy, this is Cliff with the Red Cross."

They call them telerecruiters.  Men and women who work the phones - calling people who've given blood in the past - encouraging them to do again.

The number one reason people don't donate - no one asked them.

Cliff Killian has done it for two years.  He says, "Just try to treat them like a peer of mine as opposed to making a speech to them."

Raquel Thorpe has been a Red Cross telerecruiter for ten years.  "Some donors are wonderful," she says.  "They say I was wondering when you were going to call me again."

From a business park off Clanton Road the American Red Cross has run its "Team Carolinas" call center from more than a decade.  It's one of dozens of call centers like it across the country.

But in this era when money is tight - the new normal - it's not just people and companies looking to cut costs non-profits are too.

It's why this fall the American Red Cross will begin consolidating its 26 call centers into three super size centers.

One in Tucson, Arizona, a second in Omaha, Nebraska, and an east coast hub in Charlotte.

"We know this will help us provide better service for our blood donors. It will also help us reduce costs," says Debra Estes of the American Red Cross.

Last week the Charlotte City council fast-tracked a rezoning petition for land the agency will need for parking.  The call center itself will go in a 65,000 square foot vacant building off Arrowood Road.

Why did they choose Charlotte?  Successful operations already here; affordable and centrally-located on the east coast between New York and Miami; a Good airport; and one of the biggies.. a labor force needing work.

Jeff Edge with the Charlotte Chamber says it's a strategy working to the city's advantage, as they go out looking for companies who want to consolidate.

He says, "We literally are looking at companies that are in what we would consider maybe secondary locations or high cost locations that would make sense for them to find an exit strategy and get in a location that's maybe more affordable."

Adds telerecruiter Raquel Thorpe, "I thought it was great that they were moving to Charlotte as opposed to away from Charlotte that's for sure."

The Red Cross is expected to begin hiring for the 400 new jobs it's adding here sometime this fall.

Jobs will be added over the next year.  Pay ranges about $25,000 annually.

Neither the city, county or state offered any economic incentives.  Non-profits can't qualify.

If people want to find out more?

Go to that links you to the Red Cross' job site.

The agency's adding 400 jobs now.  In documents to City Council Red Cross said it could accommodate 1,000 employees.

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