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Walgreens recently opened its newest distribution center in Windsor, CT, where 30 percent of the workforce is made up of people with disabilities.
Employees with disabilities have been trained to work side-by-side with other team members – with the same productivity goals, earning the same pay. Disabilities range from autism and retardation to hearing and physical impairments. An on-site training facility helps those with special needs become prepared for employment so everyone can work productively and effectively.
“We’ve worked technology and creativity into every inch of this place, but the people here will amaze you,” said Walgreens senior vice president of supply chain and logistics Randy Lewis. “We originally went into this project wanting to change the work environment but soon discovered we were the ones who changed in dramatic and wonderful ways.”
In February, the Department of Labor’s first ever report on unemployment among disabled job seekers revealed rates nearly double that of the typically-able population. At a time when many question job stability and worry about layoffs, Walgreens has brought nearly 300 new jobs to Connecticut.
“We are dedicated to building a strong economic future, and the common denominator is – and must always be – creating and maintaining a diversified workforce,” Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell. “I am tremendously proud of this successful partnership, which combined the hard work of so many state agencies, community non-profits and private business. The jobs created from this endeavor are the successful result of everyone striving for the same goal.”
This 700,000-square-foot facility not only can fit 12 football fields inside its walls, but will serve hundreds of Walgreens stores throughout the Northeast. The center is expected to be 20 percent more efficient than the company’s previous generation of distribution centers, and has some of the most innovative logistics systems in the distribution industry.
The Windsor location and facility in Anderson, S.C., which opened in 2007, are now the models for every future Walgreens distribution center. It’s the company’s goal to fill 10 percent of its distribution center production jobs with people with disabilities. Walgreens is more than halfway there.
“For many, this is their first full-time job,” said Lewis. “For a parent to finally see their son or daughter experience what it’s like to hold a job, be responsible and actually look forward, can fulfill a lifelong dream.”
Featured speakers at the distribution center grand opening will be Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson and Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Guided tours of the facility will follow.