Wal-Mart’s new Fort Mill shared services center could employ more than 100

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it has picked Fort Mill, S.C., for a new shared services center, a temporary operation designed to bolster the company’s ongoing efforts to streamline its financial and payroll processes.

The retail giant said the center is scheduled to open sometime this month. It did not disclose its address, how many it would employ, or how long it expects the center to be open.

According to the city of Fort Mill, Wal-Mart last week applied for a business license for 605 Munn Road, where CitiFinancial currently has operations. The site is in Kingsley Park, a business park near where Interstate 77 and S.C. 160 meet.

A source familiar with the issue told the Observer the center could employ more than 100 people. In paperwork on file with the city of Derby, Kan., the retailer lists a similar center there as employing 130 people, according to the city.

The Fort Mill operation will be Wal-Mart’s third such center in the U.S. The other is in Bentonville, Ark., where the retailer is headquartered.

The facility will house jobs for Wal-Mart’s Global Shared Services group. According to Wal-Mart’s website, that group is tasked with making its payroll and invoice process “faster, better and simpler.” The group aggregates and streamlines many of the financial and payroll services for Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart in North America, according to the website.

In an email, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said the center will help the company “increase our capacity to deliver back office activities.” She did not go into more detail about the center’s operations.

David Swenson, York County’s economic development director, said the county is “extremely excited” about the announcement. Swenson said it will create a “significant” number of jobs and that the county is not providing incentives to Wal-Mart.

Until now, Swenson said, the only Wal-Mart jobs in York County were in the retailer’s stores. He said the county is hoping Wal-Mart makes the center a permanent operation.

According to Swenson, the retailer began looking for locations for the center more than a year ago. Wal-Mart examined sites around the Charlotte region, including in North Carolina, he said.

Swenson said he learned Wal-Mart settled on Fort Mill late last year. He thinks the retailer ultimately picked Fort Mill because of available office space and its existing financial services work force.

In its most recent annual report, Wal-Mart said it is establishing shared service functions and processes on a global scale to allow the company to be more efficient and further enhance its internal controls over financial reporting.

Wal-Mart continues to hire for the center, posting openings as recently as last week. Salaries for the positions, which include managers and analysts, are not listed.

The center will mean more jobs for the Charlotte region’s financial services sector, which has not returned to pre-recession employment levels. The Charlotte, Gastonia and Rock Hill area employed roughly 76,900 people in financial services in December, the latest month for which U.S. Department of Labor data are available. That’s below peak employment of about 80,000 in December 2006.

South Carolina is not providing the company with incentives to open the center, according to the state’s commerce department. The announcement for the center comes at a time when North and South Carolina continue to compete with each other to lure and retain employers.

Just last month, Virginia-based Movement Mortgage announced that it will relocate its headquarters to Lancaster County after South Carolina agreed to give it $53 million in incentives to create more than 650 jobs there. As part of that plan, the mortgage company will shift 200 employees in Charlotte to a new headquarters facility that will be built just across the state line. Movement Mortgage said North Carolina also offered the company an incentives package but it was not enough to compete with South Carolina’s.