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Walgreens invests in Chicago hometown

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Wednesday unveiled plans to establish deeper roots on its home turf with its “Chicago Hometown Investment Initiative,” a plan that will create an estimated 600 new jobs in the city over the next two years and quadruple the number of Walgreens’ food oasis stores.

About half of those 300 jobs will fuel an expansion of Walgreens’ digital strategy, the company stated. The remaining jobs will be created by new store openings and remodeling of many of Walgreens' 142 Chicago drug stores, including the planned expansion of Walgreens' 11 food oasis stores in the city to nearly 50 over the next two years.

“Our expanded investment in Walgreens' hometown demonstrates the optimism we’ve had for Chicago since Charles R. Walgreen Sr. opened his first store here in 1901 at the corner of Cottage Grove and Bowen avenues,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson said. “By bringing more jobs to the city, expanding commerce and providing healthy living choices to residents across the city, we strive to make Chicago an even better place in which to live well.”

Added Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, “This dual investment by Walgreens will have a profound effect on the city of Chicago. The 600 new jobs will have a strong impact on our economy, and the nearly 40 new food oasis stores will allow many of our residents to get healthy food for their families. This is an example of a corporation that is committed to both the city of Chicago and its mission.”

Walgreens' Chicago Hometown Investment Initiative includes three components:

  • Expanded downtown office space: Walgreens plans to expand its downtown presence for e-commerce, information technology and other support areas, some of which have been located in the Sullivan Center since March 2010. The expansion comes shortly after Walgreens completed on June 3 its acquisition of Drugstore.com, a strong online business across the health, personal care, beauty and vision categories that better positions Walgreens as the most convenient multichannel retailer of health and daily living in America;

  • Expansion of food oasis stores: Walgreens intends to quadruple the number of Chicago stores in which it provides expanded healthy food selections to serve communities identified as food deserts, or areas that lack access to basic foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet. In August 2010, Walgreens celebrated the opening of 10 redesigned stores on Chicago’s South and West Sides to include more than 750 new food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen meats and fish, pasta, rice, beans, eggs, whole-grain cereals and other healthy meal components. Earlier this month, Walgreens was 1-of-4 companies to participate in a special CEO summit with mayor Emanuel to address the food desert crisis facing Chicago’s inner city neighborhoods. The company now plans to double the number of stores with expanded healthy food selections by 2012, and double the number again in 2013, to reach a total of nearly 50 food oasis stores; and

  • New and remodeled drug stores: Walgreens plans to open at least five additional stores in Chicago over the next two years, while also investing in remodeling many of its existing stores in the city. The new and remodeled stores, combined with expansion of Walgreens' food oasis locations, are expected to add approximately 300 new jobs in the city.

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