By RACHAEL LONG
The City of Brentwood celebrates a half-century milestone this year. But they are not alone. Comdata Payment Innovation — founded July 17, 1969 — also turns 50 this year.
It even had a spot in the Brentwood “A Golden Gallup” parade on Saturday, April 13.
The Brentwood-based company began as a shipment interchange program for the transport industry, founded by the late Curt Harter. The company’s main service changed two years later when the Interstate Commerce Commission asked the company to “cease and desist,” according to a company newsletter.
Following the Western Union strikes, the company saw an opportunity and introduced the Comchek in 1971.
“Back in the day, before Comchek, if you’re a trucking company and you’re going across the roads, the only real way you could get a driver money was through what was called the Western Union,” Comdata’s Chief Operating Officer of Business Fleet Randy Morgan said. “So, a fleet person would have to get up out of their chair, go to a Western Union facility with cash or a credit card, and then tell the driver where to go pick the money up. So it was very inefficient from operating and cost standpoint.”
The Comchek, he said, was a way to do all those things without ever leaving the desk.
Harter came up with an algorithm for each Comchek’s “express code,” a 16-digit number that was equivalent to a dollar amount, Morgan said. The Comcheks were an innovative service that would allow trucking companies to send money to their drivers while they were out on the road.
“It really kind of started to change the trucking industry as far as the age of electronics,” Morgan said. “There was a different way to kind of go do business.”
Though the company has since evolved to include a variety of services and products since the 1970s, the Comchek is still in use by some today. Marketing Communications and Social Media Specialist Carrie Featherstone said the company now offers a digital version of the Comchek today.
“We also have mobile applications for many of the Comdata cards that allow customers to instantly access and manage their funds via their mobile device,” Featherstone said in an April 17 email.
Throughout the 1980s, the company grew its services by introducing to fleets its first United Services card and discount program. By 1988, the card offered companies a cash advance option as well as an employee pay component.
Comdata, which became part of the FLEETCOR family in 2014, now services companies across several industries with fuel cards, payroll services, travel expense management, workforce payment solutions and more. According to company documents, it is now the second-largest commercial Mastercard provider in the United States and Canada.
The company was originally located in Green Hills, but quickly outgrew its office space. In 1989, the corporate headquarters moved the office to its current location in Maryland Farms.
“In the ‘80s, this was a long way from town. Brentwood wasn’t what it is today, so not that many people lived here,” Morgan said. “And then it was so far a commute, it was like, ‘How is anybody ever gonna work here?’”
Morgan has been with Comdata since 1981, and lived in East Nashville when the company moved its headquarters to Brentwood.
But for all the growth and change the company has seen, one thing that has never changed is its intentional focus on the customer.
“It’s a continuation of [being a] big advocate for the voice of the customer, [a] big advocate for the customer experience, [a] big advocate for really understanding why people want to use our products,” Morgan said.
The company will be celebrating closer to its actual anniversary in July with internal events for employees, a social media campaign showcasing the company’s history and personnel, and a 50th Anniversary video yet to be released on its media channels.
For more information on the company, visit the Comdata website here.