Take it to the bank - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Take it to the bank

April 5, 2006

Albany -- An explosion of new banks points to a better economy for parts of Georgia.

People in and around Albany have more than $1.3 billion deposited in area banks. New banks pop up all the time, and other banks change hands as chains buy out community banks. The success of the banking business is, in part, due to an increase in loans, both home and commercial.

People in the metro Albany area have more money in the bank than ever. After three decades in construction, John Cirone of JVS Associates, Inc. decided to start his own general contracting business.

Cirone said, "While there's a large amount of small general contractors around, there's still a dire need for quality workmen and quality contractors."

Cirone says Albany continues to grow, with more houses and businesses going up all the time. "I don't see Albany slowing down to tell you the truth. If I didn't feel that, I would be a fool going into business on my own."

Cirone, like hundreds of Georgians, got a commercial loan to open his business.

Commercial loans have more than tripled in the state in the last ten years. Chief Lending Officer Frank Griffin says, "We have a strong loan market in Albany."

Frank Griffin and Bank President Scott Tomlinson hope to cash in on the success on the loan market. The two opened a new bank, Flint Community Bank. They will break ground on the new building Thursday.

"I think the actual statistics prove we are more profitable than we get press for being. Over the last ten to twelve years, the number of community, locally owned has diminished," Tomlinson said.

There are six banks in less than a block in northwest Albany, but you can't simply open another one. To start a bank in an area the size of Albany, you must have at least $1 billion in investable deposits, that's the money people keep in our banks.

Last year, Albany's investable deposits skyrocketed. Tomlinson says, "Records indicate about $1.3 billion which is about a 25% to 30% increase in one year."

There are a couple reason for that growth. One is the housing market, even at its current lull, is still doing well. And baby boomers are retiring with money in their pockets.

Griffin says, "Those people who have worked 30 or 40 years in some industry typically have a retirement nest egg to live on. Is it fixed income, yes to some degree but it's not fixed strictly on social security."

And businesses keep opening. That means profits for contractors like Cirone and for the bank that loaned him the money to live out his dream.

Flint Community Bank expects to move into its new office on Meredyth Drive in May 2007.

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