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Sour economy not deterring area financial firms
Bank, credit union opening, another begins selling stock
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Two financial institutions have opened their doors and another has begun a stock offering, and all say the slumping economy won’t stop them.

Independence Bank of Georgia has opened at 6323 Grand Hickory Drive, just off Ga. 211 in Braselton.

The bank includes a number of executives with ties to GB&T Bancshares, which merged earlier this year with SunTrust.

Terry Evans, a former top executive with First National Bank of Gwinnett, is president and chief executive officer of Independence Bank. He said the area surrounding Braselton in Hall, Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties is poised to grow even more with the expected expansion of Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

"We’ve got a lot of housetops in this area in all different ranges," Evans said. "We’re right off Interstate 85 and are close to Atlanta and the airport, not to mention the Mall of Georgia down the road."

Two of his banking officers, Sid Chandler and John Stump, were on the staff of the former Gainesville Bank & Trust.

He said both men have brought previous loan customers to the new bank.

"I think we’re here at the right time," Evans said. "You always want to be somewhere before the growth. The market has jumped in and is going to hold us off a little while, but the growth will be here."

The bank was formed by a number of former directors of First National Bank of Gwinnett. They are joined by newcomers Brian Rochester, an executive with Rochester & Associates, a Gainesville engineering firm, and Mike Williams, one of the family owners of Lake Lanier Islands resort.

Also opening recently is the newest branch of Georgia’s Own Credit Union, which formerly was known as Georgia Telco Credit Union, which originated as a credit union for employees of BellSouth. The credit union was given permission by the state to expand into Hall County and has acquired the former Gainesville Bank & Trust building at 475 Dawsonville Highway.

"We have great rates on our loans and on our deposits," said Kelly Garmon, vice president of advertising and marketing for Georgia’s Own, who said the credit union has been a place where working people could find attractive rates on loans at a time when some banks have been backing away.

The new facility is the 17th location for the $1.2 billion credit union and serves as the area’s only CU Service Center, a network of participating credit unions that enables members to conduct their credit union business at close to 100 locations throughout the state.

Like banks, deposits at credit unions are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

The county’s newest bank in organization, Home Federal Bank, has begun distributing a prospectus to potential stockholders this week.

"We are offering 1.5 million shares up to a maximum of 2 million shares at a price of $10 per share," said Clyde McArthur, president of the proposed bank.

Also this week, the group announced the acquisition of the former SunTrust Branch in College Square Shopping Center. The branch, which was originally a branch of the former Home Federal Savings & Loan, was closed in the merger of GB&T Bancshares and SunTrust.

"It’s all set to go, and everything we need to open is right here," McArthur said. "This is right in the heart of the Oakwood business district."

McArthur did not have a timetable for completing the stock sale.

The bank is being formed by a board of directors chaired by Randall Crow, owner of Starboard Marine Enterprises in Buford. Robert B. Wise is vice chairman and chief executive and chief lending officer for the proposed bank.

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