NCR to leave Gwinnett for Midtown Atlanta

NCR, the technology giant that moved from Ohio to Gwinnett County six years ago, now plans to move its headquarters into the city of Atlanta.

The relocation, which had been speculated for months, will shift about 3,600 jobs.

The planned move is a blow to Gwinnett – which held NCR’s arrival among its most cherished economic development coups — and a boost for Atlanta, which has seen a flurry of technology companies move intown from the ‘burbs in the past few years.

NCR said the company intends to build a new home on Spring Street at Centergy North on Technology Square near Georgia Tech in late 2017 or early the following year. It expects to consolidate workers at sites throughout metro Atlanta.

A second campus is promised for the northern suburbs around the same time, but NCR said specifics on that project are not final. It is unclear if the suburban campus will be in Gwinnett or elsewhere.

“Creating a state-of-the-art campus in midtown Atlanta near Georgia Tech marks an important step in NCR’s reinvention as an exciting and important, global technology company,” NCR Chairman and CEO Bill Nuti said in a release Tuesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported in March that NCR was in secret talks to build a major corporate complex near Georgia Tech in a bid to tap a direct line to the highly skilled engineering and programming talent that graduate each year.

NCR has long cited Georgia Tech as a top reason it relocated its headquarters from Ohio to Duluth.

Almost a year before that the 2009 move, Tech executives quietly met with NCR officials to scope out the company’s move and explore potential collaboration. Nuti now sits on Tech’s advisory board and shares business lessons with students.

“The talent in this state is awesome. The talent in the city is awesome,” Nuti said in a 2010 talk to Georgia Tech students. “And this school is a great feeder system for talent for us. We were able to acquire really good quality people when we hired here in the Atlanta area.”

But NCR’s relocation also is an example of the intra-Georgia competition for jobs.

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash was sanguine about NCR’s announcement.

“Businesses make location decisions on factors important to them,” she said in an email. “Any time such a decision is made, we try to understand the reasons for the decision and what we can learn to apply to the next retention or recruitment.”

Atlanta struggled for years losing tech firms to the suburbs, but recent intown moves by firms such as athenahealth and Worldpay added momentum to a trend of companies looking to locate in urban areas and near transit links to attract talent.

The news follows last week’s bombshell that Mercedes-Benz planned to relocate its U.S. hub from New Jersey to metro Atlanta. It is believed to be close to picking a site in the northern suburbs.

NCR, founded in 1884 as the National Cash Register, made the first mechanical registers. The company diversified and evolved into a financial technology giant, making self-services kiosk and other technologies for the banking, retail and travel industries, as well as governments.

Revenue rose 9.2 percent through the first nine months of 2014 vs. 2013, but profit fell 35.5 percent.

It was not immediately clear if NCR will seek incentives, but the company received a package totaling $109 million when it moved to Georgia in 2009. That package also involved new manufacturing operations and the addition of 2,120 jobs.

Atlanta officials said the new Midtown campus will ultimately house 3,600 workers.

“The new global headquarters will bring 3,600 jobs to the city, and construction of the headquarters will drive additional economic development, adding more vibrancy to a city already buzzing with energy,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement.

Talks between NCR, the state, the city of Atlanta and Georgia Tech started as early as 2012, though they remained a secret.

NCR employees interviewed Tuesday had mixed emotions about the announcement. They agreed that moving intown will give the company more visibility, but said they doubt everyone will want to make the trip into the city.

“It would be an unpleasant commute,” said Chris Herwig, a 26-year NCR veteran who moved to Georgia from Ohio.

Abhishek Gupta, a software engineer who has been with the company for five years, said he is excited about a campus more in line with the likes of Google or Apple. The University of Georgia alum said he thinks a move downtown will help attract new graduates.

But Gupta moved to Duluth to work for NCR. Given a choice, he said, he would prefer to work closer to home.

Staff writers Arielle Kass, Katie Leslie and Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.

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