James.qxp Nov Dec 2018 web - Page 31



IT WAS IN 1998 WHEN THE GEORGIA HISTORICAL
Society (GHS) took over the historic marker program and
has since worked to maintain the more than 2,000 markers throughout the Peach State while erecting some 250
more. While most early markers— which many native
Georgians are familiar with— depict key Civil War battles, GHS has put an emphasis on making sure a wide
array of other important historical events, from the civil
rights movement to the creation of the state’s most
impactful businesses, are also spotlighted.
In that vein, in 2014 the GHS created the Georgia
Business History Initiative to honor and bring to light
the economic and cultural influence that Peach
State companies have had on the state, the country and even the entire world.
In September TSYS (pronounced tee-sis and short for
“The Total System”) was the latest honoree of the initiative, joining such Georgia icons as CocaCola, Chick-fil-A, CNN and
Georgia-Pacific as one of the
institutions that has played a
pivotal role in the state’s economic and social fabric.
Getting its start as the
bankcard department for
Columbus Bank & Trust (now
Synovus), TSYS has become one
of the foremost payment processing companies in the world. Spun off into its own
publicly traded entity in 1983, today it boasts more
than 12,000 employees across 13 countries and
processes nearly 30 billion transactions per year.
And TSYS is far from alone in being a local company that has made a major impact in its field. Other
institutions honored by the Georgia Business History
Initiative include Southern Company and its largest
subsidiary, Georgia Power, which helped build out the
power grids that provide energy to millions of customers across the southeast. Coca-Cola is among the
world’s most recognizable brands, and its mark on
Atlanta— not just in terms of business but also in social
and cultural development— is indelible. Delta Air Lines,
the program’s flagship sponsor, began as a crop-dusting
company in Macon in the 1920s before switching over to
passenger service. It of course helped transform Atlanta
into one of the premier commercial hubs and international cities in the United States along the way.
Upcoming honorees will include a pair of Savannahbased institutions— the Georgia Ports Authority, celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, and Colonial Oil,
which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021.
Along with the historical marker, GHS also
puts together a company profile and a case
study to be made available for
teachers across the state as
part of an ongoing program to
help tie in the history of local
companies to the curriculum.
Developed by GHS’s historians and education team and
distributed by the Georgia
Council on Economic
Education, those case studies
include an in-depth history of
the companies featured,
accompanied by research
questions and links to additional resources to further the
study of how some of the
state’s keystone businesses
have shaped its history.
“What a great way to make history come alive,”
GHS president and CEO Todd Groce tells James magazine. “If we can understand how we got here, then
we can make good decisions going forward.”
He continued, “Studying business history is
important for two reasons. First, students gain a better understanding of the role that companies like
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N OV E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8
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