Innovation truly is "homegrown" in this quaint college town
Traditionally, the L word – location, location, location – has been the key to success in real estate. But Oxford companies are leading the way in making the T word – technology – just as important in today’s real estate industry.
From appraisal software to mortgage streamlining to technology that aids property restoration, local innovators are devising ways to make business easier, more efficient and cost-effective. And their work is attracting national attention.
Ideal for Innovation
“The proximity to talent at the University of Mississippi, expanded fiber connectivity throughout Lafayette County and the community’s dedication to the entrepreneurial culture makes Oxford an ideal location to operate innovative businesses,â€ says Allen Kurr, vice president for economic development at the Oxford Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce. “Oxford also embraces creativity and originality, tenets that our technology sector shares.”
FNC, for example, was launched by four professors at the University of Mississippi back in 1996, in response to a need they saw for technological solutions in the appraisal sector, replacing paper appraisal methods with digital systems. Eventually FNC was serving more than 50 percent of the national appraisal market, and in 2016 was acquired by giant CoreLogic for a reported half-billion dollars.
Today, CoreLogic’s Valuation Solutions Group employs 180 people locally, and has grown its clients and expanded mortgage settlement services.
In true Oxford style, it celebrates an annual Hackathon, during which employees can prototype their ideas and present them to company leadership –all while enjoying â€food trucks, caffeinated drinks, junk food and healthy competition,â€ the company says.
“As industry leaders in the Valuation Technology Platform space, it is imperative that we have an innovative mindset,â€ said Glen Evans, executive at CoreLogic. “Every day CoreLogic continues to transform the real estate market using the most cutting-edge technologies and methodologies like machine learning, AI and drones.”
Mortgage Trade, or Mtrade, was also launched in Oxford and today is an industry leader in helping lenders such as banks process, underwrite and deliver loans, and manage their way through the regulation jungle with its software solutions The Clean Room and TRID Tracker.
Real estate requires help from time to time, whether after a water leak that wrecks hardwood kitchen floors or a chemical fire in an industrial plant. Next Gear Solutions, a homegrown Oxford firm, brings technology to the rescue for the restoration industry.
“It sounds like a small niche industry but restoration is huge,â€ says Scottye Carter-Dewey, Next Gear vice president of operations. “Everyone who owns a house or a business is going to have a restoration problem at some point in their lives.”
The company’s popular software, DASH, helps restoration companies manage jobs and contracts. Next Gear enjoyed 40 percent revenue growth in 2016-2017, Carter-Dewey says, and has been rapidly growing, acquiring several other products including Luxor CRM, MICA Software and Moisture Mapper International. The company now operates offices in Oxford, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.
Carter-Dewey credits much of the company’s early success to its tenure in the Oxford Enterprise Center, the local incubator that has launched several very successful businesses.
“We had tremendous support from the chamber and the county’s Economic Development Foundation, which worked with them during their four or five years at the center. “We had a few hard years while we were at the center, but if we had not been there we would not be here today.â€