Farmers Bank will not open branch in Newsoms

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NEWSOMS—Farmers Bank will not open a branch in Newsoms, but is negotiating to buy land for a branch in Southampton County.

“We cannot branch to Newsoms,” Dick Holland, president and chief executive officer for Farmers Bank in Windsor told residents during a Thursday meeting at the Newsoms Ruritan building. “There’s not enough (equity) for a move. You need $25 million in loans to make it profitable.”

Bank Senior Vice President Patty Allen noted that Newsoms residents have less than $1 million in deposits with Farmers while Courtland and Franklin residents have a total of $20 million. The area, however, has $2 million in loans.

“We have to look at profitability,” Allen said. “We will continue to look here, but we have to have loans to make it happen. We are sorry we are not coming here. So far it doesn’t look like it’s likely for Farmers Bank or any other bank, but we would like to find a way to meet your needs.”

Newsoms residents Lynda Updike and Linda Vick late last year approached Farmers Bank about opening an office in their town after BB&T announced it would close its branches in Courtland and Newsoms. The Winston-Salem, N.C.,-based financial institution moved customers’ accounts to its office in Franklin.

The Courtland office, in a rented storefront in Shands Plaza closed on Dec. 23, and the Newsoms office on General Thomas Highway closed Jan. 6. The building in Newsoms is for sale, reportedly for $150,000 to $160,000.

Holland and three others from the bank attended an initial meeting in December with residents at the Ruritan building.

Holland on Thursday told residents the bank’s directors are enthused about moving to Southampton County.

“We need to secure property and build a branch,” he said.

Founded in 1919, Farmers Bank also has an office in Smithfield and three in Suffolk.

Holland noted when BB&T closed its Newsoms branch, it had $7 million in deposits.

“Banks are hesitant to invest in bricks and mortar,” he said. “For someone to switch banks, you have to be very unhappy. It’s a risk for us to come to Franklin, Southampton or Courtland.”

“If you give us your support, I think you’ll find we’ll give you ours,” Vick said.

Resident Carol Majors said she would move her bank accounts to Farmers if the bank offered a part-time service in Newsoms.

“It’s a lot of trouble to change banks,” Majors said.

That could be a possibility, Holland said.