Metro Atlanta and Georgia lead the nation in electronic payments

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta and Georgia dominate in the field of credit card and debit card payments.

Paul Garcia, CEO of Atlanta-based Global Payments, told members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta Monday that 70 percent of all credit and debit transactions that occur in the United States are handled by companies based in Georgia — primarily in metro Atlanta.

Garcia then went on to list some of the major players based in Georgia — First Data, Elavon, TSYS (Total Systems), NCR and of course, Global Payments.

First Data alone accounts for nearly 50 percent of all the transactions that occur in the United States.

In fact, Garcia said the Atlanta region should start referring to itself as “Payments Valley” or some other catch phrase that can describe the critical role the metro area plays in the all-encompassing field of credit and debit card transactions.

“Georgia has emerged as the hub of electronic payments,” Garcia said.

Take Garcia’s company — Global Payments. The $2.5 billion company does business in 26 countries, and roughly half of its sales are generated outside the United States.

Garcia credited Atlanta’s prominence in the industry back to the former National Data Corp. In fact, Global Payments was spun out of NDC on Feb. 1, 2001. Georgia also had other industry leaders, such as First Financial Management Corp. (FFMC), that helped create a cluster of companies that work in the space of credit and debit card transactions, and that has helped the industry flourish in Georgia.

“NDC invented and revolutionized the business,” said Garcia, who became president and CEO of Global Payments in 2001. “Atlanta is a great place to live and do business.”

It also has had strong foundation in telecommunications, there’s an ease of doing business, and there has been a base of venture capital here that has supported the industry. Garcia said that the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Technology Association of Georgia are trying to leverage the state’s dominance in the financial technology area.

“You’ve had a lot of start-ups in this area,” Garcia said. “We are the biggest payments city in the country.”

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