by Urvaksh Karkaria – Atlanta Business Chronicle
Global payments company Elavon will invest in a new technology development center in Atlanta. “The Grove” will develop software and hardware to help small and midsized businesses, such as restaurants and retailers, acquire new customers and engage with existing customers.
Metro Atlanta is attracting a number of software development operations. General Motors Co. is expected to open a software development center that could employ up to 1,500. In June, CBS Corp. said it would open a technology center near Perimeter Mall.
Elavon’s center will employ more than 50 high-tech workers over several years and develop new payment technologies and business intelligence services that allow merchants to better understand sales trends, manage inventory and tweak business operations. The innovation center will also partner with large point-of-sale management companies to develop new technologies, said Wally Mlynarski, Elavon’s vice president of mobility.
Elavon said it would be investing in the “tens of millions of dollars” in the innovation center over the next five years.
Atlanta-based Elavon, a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, provides payment processing and professional services to merchants and financial institutions. The company processes more than3 billion transactions annually worth $300 billion. By driving sales for its merchant clients, Elavon gets to process more payments and capture a greater share of its merchant clients’ spending.
Elavon’s investment in the software development center is recognition that mobile phones are becoming an integral way for consumers to shop and pay for products and services.
As consumers increasingly shop using their mobile phones, business can grow by enabling mobile technology at the point of sale, said Marianne Johnson, Elavon executive vice president and global chief of product and innovation. Marketing and customer loyalty becomes easier and more affordable, Johnson said.
The Grove, which will operate like a startup, will help Elavon accelerate its pace of innovation, Mlynarski said.
By developing software in-house, Elavon will be able to react quicker to market trends.
Elavon’s decision to put the innovation center in Atlanta reflects the city’s reputation as a payments technology hub.
Four of the top 20 American Banker FinTech 100 companies are headquartered in Georgia.
Atlanta “is an epicenter, globally, for mobile technology,” Johnson said.
Elavon’s innovation center represents the confluence of key economic development initiatives — combining Atlanta’s leadership in financial tech and mobility with startup entrepreneurship, said John Yates, co-chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Technology Leadership Council. “The Innovation Center will be a breeding ground combining entrepreneurs, innovation and jobs,” said Yates, who also leads the tech practice at law firm Morris, Manning & Martin LLP.
Elavon’s 10,000-square-foot innovation center will be housed within the company’s Atlanta headquarters. Elavon also plans to open a similar operation in Dublin, Ireland. In Atlanta, Elavon plans to hire software developers, mobile application developers, database designers and analysts and project managers. Elavon also considered San Francisco, Denver, Austin, Texas, and Boston for the project.
“Atlanta boasts highly skilled professionals, specifically targeted to the skills we need,” Johnson said. “We chose Atlanta … to place these jobs and to grow this innovation discipline, because there is absolutely no reason that that think tank can’t sit here.”
In Atlanta, companies can find top technology talent at costs considerably less than competitive markets, said Larry Williams, a vice president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Unlike in Silicon Valley, tech companies deal with less employee churn in Atlanta. “You can get talent at a better rate, and you can also scale up a business quicker,” Williams said.