Point-of-Sale Software Industry Spurs Rust Belt Rebirth
BUTLER, Pa. – The point-of-sale industry not only provides a valuable technology product to thousands of restaurants, it is creating jobs and transforming the economic calculus for old industrial towns such as Butler, Pennsylvania.
Supercharging a rust belt reboot is Future POS, the Butler-based developer of payment-transaction software. The company recently calculated its impact in the “Steel City” region as equaling $5 million a year through jobs, taxes, philanthropy and trickledown spending, according to John Giles, President and Co-Founder.
Giles, a Butler native, founded the firm in 1998. His wife Kelly joined in 2003 as Vice President.
The wrecking ball has been a common sight in Butler, 50 miles north of Pittsburgh, since manufacturing collapsed 30 years ago. While the downtrodden city has had its challenges, Future POS is putting chip- embedded payment technology on the map like a screensaver. The company employs more than 60 software engineers, sales, marketing and tech support at its corporate office just a stone’s throw away from the steel mills that provide a monument to the golden age of heavy industry.
“Small business is the muscle of our whole economy. One of the most inspiring companies in our area is Future POS,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania 3rd District, which includes Butler. “It employs dozens of people and provides important software to hundreds of restaurants.”
The firm, often called “Butler’s Google,” designs software for more than 18,000 hospitality venues worldwide, including 600 in western Pennsylvania.
“By helping restaurants stay open and vibrant, they protect jobs and livelihoods and help spur new growth for other businesses,” Congressman Kelly said. “Based on its solid track record, it’s easy to say that Future POS has been an economic treasure for our entire community. I am incredibly grateful that John and Kelly Giles have chosen to keep the company in Butler. Such an investment in the wellbeing of our community is a result of their big hearts and wonderful character.”
Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche agreed, saying Future POS represents the “new economy.” Future complements a Pittsburgh tech sector that comprises more than 15 big hitters. Google operates a satellite at Bakery Square, Schell Games in Station Square develops gameplay technology and Wombat Security Technologies in the Strip District works to prevent breaches. Former Carnegie Mellon University professors launched Wombat.
“Innovation and technology are changing the way we do business across the globe, and we are proud to have John and Kelly Giles and Future POS in our community,” Osche said. “Future POS has the potential to be the anchor for technology innovation and growth, attracting and launching even more businesses and entrepreneurs like John and his team. Just as Pittsburgh has transformed from manufacturing to technology and health care, I believe that Butler has the potential to do the same, and the next generation workforce will lead us there.”
Future POS has succeeded, the congressman and commissioner said, because of its vision and array of award-winning software. Future POS installs the infrastructure for a one-terminal sales station to 77-terminal stadiums. This year the company has released an industry-leading order entry at EMV pay-at-table solution piloted in Butler.
“Future POS is already a star. Maybe it’s becoming a nova,” said Stan Kosciuszko, president of the Butler County Chamber of Commerce. “They are expanding, expanding, expanding.”
The company, which has had double digit growth in sales nearly every year for 19 years, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Giles started in a basement, amid hard times. Like many rust belt cities, Butler experienced economic stagnation after the collapse of heavy industry in 1980s. Motorists driving into town on Route 8 zipped pass buildings that tumbled out of the darkness like discordant notes: abandoned mill buildings, burned-out storefronts and crumbling houses.
Giles singlehandedly developed the Future POS point-of-sale package and started selling it in 1998. Kosciuszko said Giles deserves credit as an entrepreneur who nurtured an idea into a full-fledged business, piloting a Butler County rebrand along the way.
“Future POS is an exceptional example of diversification of industry here in Butler County,” Kosciuszko said. “People always look at the heavy industry, but heavy industry is not going to bring the county back. It’s coming back because of companies like Future POS that are more creative and high tech.”
Kosciuszko described Future POS as a unique on many levels.
“You start with the fact that Kelly and John grew up here,” he said. “They went to Butler High School, and they decided to make their home here and their business here. And they had an idea, an interesting idea – software. Because of their hard work and ingenuity, they ended up founding an extremely successful company that is an asset to Butler County. It employs quite a few people. It has a large payroll and is extremely philanthropic. They support a lot of community efforts.”
Butler County’s livability index contributes to the company’s brain gain of young developers. Compared to the Bay Area of California or Seattle, home base for Microsoft, living expenses, especially housing, don’t break the bank.
“Butler County is fortunate to call Future POS as one of our homegrown business success stories,” said Steven Gifford, new Executive Director of the Butler County Community Development Authority. “The software firm is a significant contributor to Butler County’s continuing evolution towards a balanced economy featuring a blend of traditional and advanced manufacturing, professional services and technology-focused businesses. More importantly, the growth and success of Future POS will serve as a magnet drawing other software and technology focused businesses to establish operations in our community.”
Although exact economic impact percentages vary, it is widely accepted that for each dollar spent by local businesses, between 60-70 cents of additional local economic activity is generated in the community after additional spending cycles, said James Hrabosky, Vice President for Administration and Finance at Butler County Community College.
“There is also direct evidence that local businesses lead to higher local real estate values and more local jobs,” he said. “Thus, Future POS will continue to play a large role in stimulating economic growth and job growth in the Butler community.”
As Future POS double downs on its mobile, flexible and customizable product development, company leaders haven’t forgotten what matters most – people. An on-site gym, exercise ball chairs in offices, flex time and an outdoor patio for “burger Friday’s” provide opportunities for decompressing. This week, the company installed a free soft drink dispenser in the break room.
Butler resident Greg Vottero, a Lead Design Specialist who commutes in a Smart Car, said the office environment gives employees the feeling they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise.
“The work is a great fit,” Vottero said. “I’ve always had an interest in programing, and for years I even made Flash games as a hobby. A lot of the work here involves programming, so it’s a nice blend of design and tech.”
The company is likely to become more prominent in the coming years. The firm recently purchased 59 acres next to the old Pioneer Drive In on Route 8 for a new headquarters. Giles said the site will be developed as a campus, with a flagship building surrounded by support structures as growth allows.
Although no hard timeline is set, Giles said he envisions an eco-friendly community with walking trails, pavilions, perhaps a green roof, open floor plans, colorful furniture and WiFi throughout.
“The building will be a reflection of the fact that we are investing in our people and in the community,” he said.
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