Walmart Hires Black Businesses for New Training Center in Chatham.

Recently, Walmart announced plans to build a state-of-the-art Training Center in the Chatham community. In addition, Walmart recently selected Milhouse Engineering and Construction, a Black-owned business headed by Wilbur C. Milhouse III. Milhouse, a Chicago Defender Man of Distinction (2009), is an award-winning entrepreneur with 25 years of diversified civil and structural engineering experience. In addition, Glenn Harston II, President of The Gemini Group and a Chicago Defender Man of Distinction (2017), was tapped to provide Walmart’s marketing and public relations services.

Keith Wyche, Walmart’s Vice President of Community Engagement and Support

WALMART CHATHAM TRAINING CENTER

Over the years, there has been discord between Walmart and the Black community due to their hiring practices, employee benefits, and discriminatory practices. Walmart’s President and CEO, Doug McMillon, realized there was a severe need to change the trajectory of how the Black community viewed his company. As a result, McMillon tapped Keith Wyche as Walmart’s Vice President of Community Engagement and Support. Wyche has built relationships between Walmart and community activists, pastors, and the city, to reshape and reimagine Walmart as a company dedicated to seeking ways to engage and empower the communities where Walmart does business.

Walmart recently announced the construction of their first stand-alone training center near the Chatham Walmart. There are 200 other training centers nationwide, where associates are trained to succeed in their current roles and expand their careers with the company.

In addition to training Walmart associates, Keith Wyche shared that they have set aside forty percent of the class space at the center for HVAC and medical assistant training, in partnership with Malcolm X College (medical assistant training) and Kennedy King College (HVAC training). Wyche noted, “Research shows there is a shortage of HVAC in the trade space and a shortage of medical assistants. We are committed to encouraging and engaging people to succeed, realizing that everyone won’t go to a university. The world still needs tradespersons and medical assistants.” He added, “We don’t want to just sell in the community; Walmart wants to be a part of the (Chatham) community.”

Wilbur C. Milhouse III Chairman/CEO Milhouse Engineering & Construction

MILHOUSE ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION

Wyche was interested in helping the Black community and businesses share in economic empowerment. In keeping with McMillon’s vision of hiring Black firms and contractors to do business with Walmart, they chose Milhouse Engineering and Construction as the general contractor to construct the training center. Milhouse has extensive experience in aviation, gas, power, transportation, water resources, and construction. Last year, Milhouse worked as a subcontractor on the reconstruction and renovation of the Chatham Walmart, which was destroyed by fire, flooding, and looting in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

In a conversation with Wilbur Milhouse about his company’s selection as the general contractor of the Walmart Training Center project, he shared, “I get the pain we (African Americans) have as it relates to our struggles over the years, and I understand the pain of those who participated in the looting. However, I don’t like when we destroy our own neighborhoods and our own things. With everything that happened with the Chatham Walmart and other Walmart locations, I am happy that Walmart decided to reinvest into the Black community.” Milhouse is also the general contractor for the rehab of Walmart locations in the Pullman and Bronzeville communities. In addition, the company plans to host hiring events for union work in carpentry, laborers, and pipefitting.

Glenn M. Harston II The Gemini Group, LTD

THE GEMINI GROUP

Glenn Harston II, President of the Gemini Group, a marketing and public relations firm, was tapped by Keith Wyche to ensure Walmart’s commitment to the community is shared via Black print and digital media. He shared that a PR firm’s knowledge of urban communities in Chicago was important to Wyche. Harston shared, “An opportunity to work with Walmart, at first glance, is good. However, understanding the previous issues, I was apprehensive.” He continued, “Often, black PR firms are brought in to clean up insincere efforts; I did not want to be played as a strategy to make Walmart look good.” Harston shared, “I was willing to start the relationship with Walmart because I read Doug McMillon’s commitment to Chicago and all he talked about with Black business and building/creating opportunities and equality.” In addition, Harston mentioned that McMillon onboarded Keith Wyche to implement and see McMillon’s commitment to the Black community go forward. “When Keith came to meet me – this is when I felt comfortable. Keith is a direct result of Doug’s desire to make this happen.” Harston shared that “Because Keith understood Black businesses and the challenges we face when dealing with companies like Walmart, he needed a firm that knew the market inside and out; he wanted businesses that were both in and a part of the community.”

Donna Hammond is a contributing writer and seminarian. Follow her on Facebook at DeeLoisSpeaks and Twitter, DeeLois623.

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