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GB&T banks set to close
Merger with SunTrust will shut down main office, 2 branches; 60 employees to lose jobs
The GB&T Bank building on Jesse Jewell Parkway will be left vacant after the bank’s consolidation with SunTrust. - photo by Tom Reed
The main office and two branches of Gainesville Bank & Trust will close permanently at 2 p.m. July 24.

The main office at 500 Jesse Jewell Parkway, the East Hall branch at 2412 Old Cornelia Highway, the branch at 475 Dawsonville Highway and a drive-through location at 1210 Thompson Bridge Road are closing as a result of the merger of GB&T and SunTrust.

Employees who are in positions dealing directly with customers have been offered jobs with SunTrust. However, 60 employees will lose their jobs by Aug. 8, according to a letter sent from SunTrust to Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras.

Only one SunTrust branch in Hall County will close. That branch is located at 3626 Mundy Mill Road in the College Square Shopping Center. The closing for that location will be at the end of business Aug. 8, according to Lana Nix, market president for SunTrust in Gainesville.

"The conversion is going really well, and the accounts and systems are working well," Nix said.

The closings are planned steps in SunTrust’s merger with GB&T. Nix said customer accounts are being converted into the SunTrust system and holders of safe deposit boxes have been given notice regarding moving the boxes or their contents.
"Some of them were able to be physically moved to a new location," Nix said.

In Hall County, GB&T branches at 4890 Golden Parkway in Buford, 3725 Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood, 1413 Atlanta Highway, 3640 Thompson Bridge Road and the Southern Heritage Bank office at 3461 Atlanta Highway in Oakwood will become branches of SunTrust.

The change in signage will take place by the end of the summer, Nix said.

In addition, Mountain State Bank locations in Lumpkin, Dawson and Forsyth counties all will remain open and become SunTrust branches.

The two banks reached agreement on a merger in November, and the transaction was approved in April by stockholders of GB&T Bancshares, the holding company for Gainesville Bank & Trust and six other community banks in North and Central Georgia.

The combination of a 10-month slide in the price of its stock in 2007 and a growing number of developers in default on loans in a slumping housing market led to the acquisition of GB&T by SunTrust, the state’s largest bank.

However, in the two months since the transaction closed, bank stocks across the country have been in a downward spiral.

SunTrust, which was trading at $54.14 a share on the day of the GB&T stockholders meeting, closed Wednesday at $36.17. For GB&T stockholders, the transaction gave them 0.1562 shares of SunTrust stock for each share of GB&T. The shares, which were valued at $8.45 on the day of the meeting, would now be worth $5.65.

Problems in the housing market have continued to take a toll on banks and other financial sectors.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 512,000 units in May, down 2.5 percent from the April level. The median price of a new home sold last month fell to $231,000, down 5.7 percent from a year ago.

The report on new home activity in May followed reports Tuesday that showed record home price drops in April, indicating the nation’s housing slump is not only deepening but also widening to include previously untouched parts of the country.

The inventory of unsold homes rose to 10.9 months in May, meaning it would take that long to exhaust the current supply of unsold homes. Because of the unusually high inventories, economists believe that home prices will keep falling until the spring of next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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