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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 11 months ago

Tight Knit

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Every community bank covets stellar one-on-one customer service. A rural inland bank, despite its small size, has discovered some ways to get there.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

The recession didn't hit The First State Bank of Arcadia as hard as other banks in the state.

“We were very fortunate in DeSoto,” First State Bank President Tony Guidry says. “A lot of the economy is agricultural.” Many bank customers focus on citrus and cattle as opposed to real estate, and Guidry says, “agricultural customers fared pretty well” in the downturn.

At the peak of the recession, the bank's holding company, Wauchula-based Crews Banking Corp., provided First State Bank with additional $2 million in capital, Guidry says. Crews also owns Charlotte State Bank & Trust and Englewood Bank & Trust in Charlotte County and Wauchula State Bank in Hardee County. The Crews bank portfolio had a combined $1.42 billion in assets through Sept. 30.

The smallest of the Crews foursome, First State Bank, founded in 1973, has remained profitable and didn't need the funds. At the end of the 2017 third quarter, its total risk-based capital ratio was 23.83% — nearly double the 12% recommended by regulators.

First State Bank is also something of a banking anomaly: most community banks in the region, at least ones that haven't been purchased, shoot for at least $500 million in assets, both for competitive reasons and to become a possible acquisition target.

But First State Bank soldiers on, with a small-town bank, know-all-your-customers philosophy. It had $143 million in assets through Sept. 30, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. It has 38 employees and three locations.

Not that the bank doesn't want to grow. Englewood Bank & Trust President Kevin Hagan, taking over for the retiring Guidry in January, points specifically to Babcock Ranch, the master-planned community in the early stages in Charlotte and Lee counties. “We will get residual effects of people moving to DeSoto,” says Hagan, who will split his time between the two banks, leaning more toward First State Bank.

Guidry says another factor that could bring new opportunities to Arcadia is the Mosaic Arena currently under construction. The new rodeo stadium will seat some 7,800 people and is expected to be finished in the spring. “It will bring a lot of people here who probably didn't have a reason to come,” Guidry says.

Some of those people will see development potential. “This isn't a community that's off the radar,” Hagan says, “it just isn't on everyone's radar.”

The radar also has a small radius — a big positive to many First State Bank executives and customers. Arcadia, known for its rodeo and antique stores that line Oak Street, has a population of about 8,000 people and DeSoto County has around 35,000 people, U.S. Census data show. “I don't often deal with people I don't know,” Guidry says. “It's a very close-knit community.”

Jim Dilley, president and a co-owner of Dilley Citrus Nursery, banks with First State Bank of Arcadia for his company and personally. “I can go in and see Tony Guidry just about any time I want to, and I really like that,” he says.

Bonnie Molloy, with the Radio Shack down the road from the bank, likes that First State Bank knows its customers. “You're sitting down and talking to someone who has your best interest at heart,” she says. “You're going to see them in church. You're going to see them in the grocery store. It gives you confidence to be able to sit down across from them and discuss things.”

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