An Alabama-based bank with a temporary office already in Columbus said it is purchasing Columbus Community Bank, which was founded in 2006 and now operates a lone branch office on Whittlesey Boulevard.
Anniston, Ala.-based Southern States Bank said it has entered an agreement with the local financial institution to acquire it for $21.4 million in cash. The deal, which must gain federal regulatory and shareholder approval, is expected to close by the end of September.
Jeff Windham, vice president and chief financial officer of Columbus Community Bank, said Wednesday that company proxies will be sent to shareholders for their vote on the acquisition within the next couple of weeks. A shareholder’s meeting is scheduled in early September, which will allow for any additional votes and input on the deal.
“You’re never 100 percent, but yeah, we’re pretty sure everything should go through smoothly, and then we have regulatory approval to go through also,” Windham said.
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He said there are about 26 people on staff at the bank and employees have been told that the new owner will try to keep as many of them as possible. Dennis Kendrick, the bank’s chief credit officer, is the acting chief executive officer following the recent departure of Derek Williams, who took a job as president and CEO of Century Bank & Trust in Milledgeville, Ga.
Lynn Joyce, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Southern States, said Brad Arnold will remain president of the Columbus market. He is in charge of the Alabama bank’s temporary full-service office that it opened in North Veterans Executive Center nearly a year ago in anticipation of building a free-standing branch office here.
“It’s important for us to keep key personnel at Columbus Community Bank, and that will be a majority of those employees. But I can’t speak specifically,” Joyce said of personnel decisions.
The temporary Southern States Bank office, 6003 Veterans Parkway, is less than two miles from Columbus Community Bank, 5604 Whittlesey Blvd., in the bustling Columbus Park Crossing shopping and dining area.
The Alabama bank in May confirmed plans to construct a permanent branch by summer 2016 at the Veterans Parkway site as part of a project being developed by the Columbus Keller Williams real-estate company. Site work has already begun on the property fronting North Veterans Executive Center, with Keller Williams planning a new office there, a small retail center, and a new headquarters building for Columbus-based Childcare Network.
“We haven’t received any notice of termination from them yet, so it’s news to us,” said KW Commercial broker Jack Hayes when told Tuesday of the change in plans by Southern States. “It’s disappointing that they’re not going to proceed on that location. But it’s such a prime location that I don’t see us having a problem finding another user.”
Hayes, who is acting as project developer of the property, said the bank was a perfect fit for the property and that the goal now will be to attract another professional office user of some sort, hopefully a different brand of financial institution.
“I think we would look at a free-standing restaurant, but they would have to meet the parking requirement and that sort of thing,” he said, pointing out that site work on the project should be completed in two to three months.
Southern States, founded in 2007, said with the addition of Columbus Community Bank total assets will reach about $500 million. Aside from Anniston and Columbus, it will have offices in the Alabama cities of Auburn, Opelika, Birmingham, Huntsville and Sylacauga, and one in the Georgia community of Carrollton.
Columbus Community Bank was started by a group of local residents in 2006, operating an office initially in Main Street Village while its new building was being planned and constructed nearby on Whittlesey Boulevard. That location opened in July 2008.
It has grown from nearly $33 million in deposits in its first full year of 2007, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data, to just over $100 million in deposits as of June 2014, making it the No. 7 bank in the city in terms of market share. Columbus Bank and Trust by far is the dominant financial institution with a 63 percent local market share.
Windham said Columbus Community Bank had assets of nearly $127 million at the end of June this year, with just over $101 million in deposits.
John Fortenberry, chairman of Columbus Community Bank’s board of directors, in a statement called the sale a great move for both parties.
“We are combining two financially sound banking institutions with like-minded operating philosophies to create something even better. We look forward to being a part of Southern States Bank and providing the Columbus area with continued and improved banking services,” he said.
Steve Whatley, who launched Southern States and is its chairman, CEO and president, said in a statement that local customers should expect the same quality of service they’ve been receiving at Columbus Community Bank.
“This merger brings a higher level of business credit capacity, meaning more opportunities to serve the small and medium businesses in Columbus,” he said.
Joyce said Southern States already is looking for additional locations in the Columbus market.