Total System Services Inc., the nation's second largest credit card processor, said it has decided to remain in Columbus, Ga.

Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama had been wooing the subsidiary of Synovus Financial Corp. since it announced expansion plans several months ago.

In a telephone conference on Thursday, Total System officials said that Georgia won the battle by committing $23 million toward educational programs in the mainframe computer sciences area.

The new location, 50 acres along the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, will "give us a chance to grow," said chairman and chief executive Richard W. Ussery, and is expected to generate 2,500 jobs.

The company's operations are presently scattered around Columbus in 16 locations.

Consolidation will "improve communication and efficiency, something our customers will benefit from," Mr. Ussery said.

Construction on the campus-style headquarters will begin next year and is to be completed by 2002, with most employees moving to the new site.

Total System will retain two data centers in Columbus, including its primary facility. It also has operations in Atlanta and in Jacksonville, Fla.

Through a Federal urban development program, Georgia will invest $10 million in preparing the site. Total System will purchase the location for $6.5 million. The new location should generate 2,500 new jobs, the company said.

Georgia's state university system will expand Quick Start, an education partnership with Total System Services. To be called the Intellectual Capital Partnership Program, the new venture will train students for specific jobs. Though Total System is the first partner, other businesses will be eligible.

Through the program, the entire state university system will offer a 10- month course in mainframe computing originated at Columbus College. Students will be approved by Total System, with a job guarantee and a degree upon completion. Students are given a $10,000 stipend from the state.

Georgia "sees it as an opportunity to create higher paying information- type jobs," said Mr. Ussery.

Richard Crone, a La Canada, Calif.-based consultant to the financial services industry, called Total System a "forward thinking employer, looking at an educated labor pool as a competitive advantage."

He added, "The bottom line difference between one company and another, such as Total System and First Data Corp., will be its people."

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