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Inside Bulloch Business with Jan Moore - First Southern closing is shocking, sobering
Jan Moore
Jan Moore

      When I started covering business news for the Statesboro Herald almost seven years ago, I never thought that I would write about a bank in Statesboro being shut down by regulators. It was surreal when I walked into First Southern's lobby on Saturday to speak with those involved with its closing and transition.
      There was a distinct air of seriousness and uncertainty as both First Southern customers and onlookers came to see what was going on. Even though it is First Southern's employees and shareholders that will bear the brunt of the bank's closing, I feel our community as a whole has lost, both in terms of confidence and the wealth of its residents.
      The one thing I have heard continuously throughout this economic downturn is that we are lucky, that our community is somewhat insulated from the economic realities plaguing other parts of our state. Now, we have become part of the statistics.
      Like other banks that have been forced to shut their doors, First Southern was severely harmed by nonperforming real estate and construction loans.
      "First Southern was number 68 in the state, and we have a fair number of Georgia banks continuing to struggle which are mostly in the metro Atlanta area," said Joe Brannen, president and CEO of the Georgia Bankers Association. "There is never anything good about a bank closing, but the closing of First Southern demonstrated again that the tried and true system that was put into place after the crash in the 1920s is working. Customers are not affected."
      Brannen acknowledged that with any closing like this one, customers will have to adjust to different people and procedures, but the safety of their deposits remains in place. Obviously, that is very good news, but what about the banking community in Georgia which serves as the financial "backbone" for growth and development in the areas that they serve?
      "Banks make money by making loans, and the loan volume in the state of Georgia continues to decrease," he said. "Businesses are standing on the sidelines, not confident enough to borrow money for infrastructure, inventory, etc. We are stuck in a really rough patch, and it is going to be a long, slow recovery."
      Our community is fortunate in one respect. There was a group of very familiar faces in the lobby of the HeritageBank (formerly First Southern) on Saturday including Gary Johnson, John Roach, Gay Daily, and Chris Carter.
      These individuals are residents of our community and have a vested interest in its continued growth and success. Under the circumstances, it is hard to ask for more than that.

      So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
      Got a scoop for Jan? Call (912) 489-9463; email



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