Atlanta’s economic development leaders are facing an interesting challenge. That challenge is how to tell Atlanta’s story in a way that will attract new companies and investors to one of America’s most dynamic cities and metropolitan regions.
Worldwide Editing is fortunate to be working on that challenge with several high-profile nonprofits in two areas. One of those, which I’ve written about previously, is the Global Cities Initiative. This is a joint project of J.P. Morgan Chase and the Brookings Institution to help make U.S. metros more globally competitive or, in Brookings-speak, more globally fluent. We are working with the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) on the third leg of that project now: Telling Atlanta’s story. The first two legs were to create a Metro Export Plan (which won a prominent local award) and a Foreign Direct Investment Plan.
The second area in which we are helping to tell Atlanta’s story is in the financial services sector of FinTech. If you’re not familiar with FinTech, it’s an abbreviated term for financial technology. Simply put, FinTech refers to companies and business that develop or leverage new technology that creates or improves financial services for consumers and businesses. Many of these companies, especially the startups, are called disruptors because they are disrupting the way that established financial institutions have traditionally developed, provided and managed the financial services industry. This is not as complicated as it may sound. Just think of FinTech as enabling you to simplify your life by using mobile technology platforms or apps to do such everyday tasks as make a purchase, apply for a loan or manage your finances.
The large presence of FinTech companies in metro Atlanta – there are roughly 100 – has established the city and region as a global money center on a par with London, New York, Zurich and Singapore. These companies are concentrated in an area known as Transaction Alley, which essentially begins at Georgia Tech and fans northward between Interstates 75 and 85. They have created a one-of-a-kind ecosystem, according to MAC, that includes established global FinTech giants such as First Data, Equifax, NCR, Worldpay, FIS and Global Payments, as well as lesser-known disrupters and entrepreneurs such as Kabbage, Paymetric, GreenSky, ControlScan, GroundFloor and Cardlytics.
These companies and the services they are creating is something have flown under the radar of the national media and, to some extent, even the local media. The challenge for economic development leaders is to raise the profile of this ecosystem so that it hits media radar screens. Importantly, it is also a Georgia story. Other cities in Georgia also are home to prominent FinTech companies, though not in the concentration that exists in metro Atlanta.
Numbers help tell part of this story. In the processing of payments, for example, 70 percent of all the credit, debit and gift card swipes that occur anywhere in the country are processed or touched in some manner by Georgia and Atlanta-area FinTech companies. The state and region have become so prominent in payment processing that 60 percent of payment processing companies are based or have operations in Georgia. FinTech companies in metro Atlanta and Georgia also have a significant global impact: More than 15 million global card-enabled merchants rely upon Georgia companies.
To help establish metro Atlanta and Georgia as a key global financial center that’s mentioned in the same breath as other global financial centers, MAC,
the American Transaction Processors Coalition and the Technology Association of Georgia teamed in the fall of 2015 to create the FinTech Atlanta Task Force. After writing a story for Georgia Trend magazine that presented an overview of the region’s and state’s role in FinTech, Worldwide Editing gained a seat on the Task Force’s Promote Work Group. This group is one of four work groups with more than 100 volunteers that are seeking to influence policy and industry development to create a business climate that will firmly establish metro Atlanta and Georgia as the global epicenter for FinTech.
In addition to volunteering with the Promote Work Group, Worldwide Editing is also participating with the Work Group’s Digital Marketing Subcommittee. The subcommittee’s mission is to create a digital marketing action plan that will be part of an overall strategy the work group will develop in 2018.
One of the aspects of telling Atlanta’s story in FinTech that I find so exciting is that this is a legacy story. Atlanta was founded as a logistics center that optimized the technology of the times. That time was 1837 when the city was carved out of a forest to serve as a railhead to deliver products from the state to markets in what is now America’s Midwest. As Jorge Fernandez, vice president of Global Commerce at MAC has pointed out, steam locomotives and railroads were the technology of the times. How ironic that in the 21st century it’s still rails that connect the products and services of metro Atlanta and Georgia to national and global markets. Only now, the rails are made of fiber instead of steel and extend wirelessly and invisibly into a “cloud” that does a lot more than offer shade and relief from the relentless heat of summer in the South.
This is a great story and one I look forward to helping to tell.