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New bank planned in Hall County

The Chattahoochee Bank of Georgia could open next year

POSTED: January 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.

A group led by Gainesville business and civic leader James A. "Jim" Walters has filed an application with the state for a charter for a new bank.

The bank, Chattahoochee Bank of Georgia, would open in mid-2008 pending state and federal regulatory approval.

Walters heads a group of 13 organizing directors, which includes two past chairmen of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. Rob Fowler, Gainesville insurance executive, and Jimmy Adams, who owns a moving and storage company, are among the 13 organizers of the bank.

The organizers have selected three executives with ties to SunTrust bank in Gainesville to manage the proposed bank. Jody Lail will be president and chief executive. He will be joined by Stephen Starke, who will serve as chief credit officer, and Greg Barrett, the chief administrative officer.

The group’s application has been accepted by the state and now awaits final approval from both the State Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Once approved, the privately held bank will begin a stock offering to prospective investors.

An Albany bank holding company, has announced that it intends to invest $3 million in the bank, 14.9 percent of the bank’s proposed initial capitalization.

Heritage Financial Group is the parent company of Heritage Bank of the South, which has offices in Albany, Sylvester and Leesburg. In 2006, Heritage entered the Ocala, Fla., market with one office and plans for a second.

The Albany bank was formed in 1955 as a credit union. It converted to a bank in 2001 and had an initial public offering of stock in 2005.

The bank is the second-largest in the Albany metro area in terms of deposits, according to a June 30 report by the FDIC.

The company, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ market, reported assets of $455 million as of Sept. 30. Leonard Dorminey, the chief executive of Heritage, will hold a seat on the board of Chattahoochee.

Like Lail, Starke and Barrett, Dorminey is also a former SunTrust executive.

The discussion of the proposed bank began months before the November announcement of the planned acquisition of GB&T Bancshares by SunTrust. But Walters said the proposed bank now comes at an even better time.

"With the recent merger announcement and some other things that have taken place, I think it makes perfect sense that we have another community bank starting up," Walters said. "We start with a clean slate and don’t have the issues that other banks have in terms of real estate concentration."

The recent decline in the housing market has left many banks with construction loans to developers falling into foreclosure.

Lail, who lives in South Hall, has 19 years of banking experience, including 12 years in this market. He most recently served as senior vice president for Quantum National Bank, a $300 million community bank in northern Gwinnett County.

"With all the banks in Gainesville, there are only three that are headquartered here," Lail said.

"There still seemed to be an opportunity for local business people to get together and form a community bank that would focus on business lending in this market."

While the new bank plans to focus on business banking, it will offer full retail bank services for consumers, as well.

Once approved and capitalized, the bank will open in a temporary location in Townview Plaza.

According to the charter application, the bank will open with 14 employees.

A permanent office is planned on E.E. Butler Parkway on the site of the former Beef Corral restaurant. The restaurant, which most recently was a Chinese restaurant, will be razed to make way for the planned bank.

In addition, the application indicates the company’s intentions to open a branch office in Northern Gwinnett in its third year.


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