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GB&T officially no more
Friday, bank changes over to SunTrust, and some branches will close for good
Gainesville Bank & Trust Branch Manager LeAnne Walters places a sign on the doors of the Jesse Jewell Parkway branch announcing its closing Thursday afternoon.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, an era in banking ended in Gainesville.

The main office of Gainesville Bank & Trust was locked by branch manager LeAnne Walters and a story in banking that began 21 years and four days earlier came to a close.

"It’s a pretty emotional day," said Richard Hunt, the bank’s founding president. "I’m literally packing my office."

Hunt, who eventually would become the chief executive of GB&T Bancshares, the bank’s holding company, will work through the end of the year for SunTrust, which acquired GB&T on May 1.

Since that time, the branches have operated under their existing name. The GB&T branches that open today will become branches of SunTrust.

Gainesville Bank & Trust received its state charter on July 20, 1987, and opened in a temporary office in Gainestown Office Park on Feb. 1, 1988. The bank moved into its main office in January 1990.

The organization of Gainesville Bank & Trust came at the time that local banking giant First National Bank controlled more than half of the deposit market in Hall County. GB&T was formed by a group that included a number of former directors of Gainesville National Bank, which had been acquired by First National Bank of Atlanta, which later merged with and became Wachovia.

During the next 20 years, Gainesville Bank & Trust grew dramatically, and in the mid-1990s would capitalize on the departure of a number of executives from Regions Bank, which had acquired First National.

The bank saw its deposits grow from $97.1 million in 1995 to $503 million on June 30, 2007, bringing GB&T within 1 percentage point of perennial leader Regions, whose deposits had shrunk to $527 million.

At the same time it was competing in the deposit market with its large regional competitors, troubles were mounting in loans made to builders and developers.

By midyear, an $8.6 million development loan in Forsyth County was in default and the company had an after-tax loss of nearly $1 million on other defaulted loans.

By November, losses from loans pushed the company to a third quarter loss of $6.3 million dollars. A meeting of the board of directors that began on Nov. 1 stretched well into the morning of Nov. 2, when the company announced it had accepted an offer to be acquired by SunTrust.

The stock transaction was approved by GB&T shareholders on April 24 and the deal was closed on May 1.

SunTrust announced that it would offer positions to all of the employees who dealt directly with customers. However, 60 to 100 of the administrative, back office and management personnel will lose their jobs and are being offered outplacement assistance by SunTrust.

The main office will be among the locations that will close. A sign placed on the door directed customers to the SunTrust main office on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The last banking transaction at the main office was made by the bank’s founding chairman, Abit Massey, who was among its first depositors 20 years ago.

Other Hall County branches that have closed are 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.

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 on Aug. 8.