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Local bankers confident of local institutions
Jan Moore Mug Web
Jan Moore
    Last week, many of you may have watched with grave concern the continued fall of the U.S. stock market in conjunction with the steep decline of the stock markets of other industrialized countries around the world.
     As I found myself wrapped up in the national news broadcasts focusing on the economy, I began to wonder. Are we as "bad off" in Bulloch County as they would have us believe? Who better to pose that question to than a couple of local bankers.
     "Some of what is being said on television is outlandish," said Tommy David, president and CEO of First Southern National Bank in Statesboro. "If you want to understand what is going on and how it might affect you, go talk to your banker. Your banker is standing in line with you at the grocery store, sitting next to you at church, you know this person. They care about you. The folks on television do not."
     David said a major problem feeding into the "panic" that has set in is the national media's "hyped" up coverage of the financial markets.
     "You have some guy on the Today Show scaring the pants off of everybody," David said. "We need somebody to calm the fears, calm the waters, not have everyone running for the hills. Not a single person has lost a dime of their money that has been in a bank during this current financial crisis. I am not aware of any FDIC money that has been used to pay depositors. Troubled banks have been bought by other banks without a hitch to the depositor."
     David acknowledged that we are in unusual times, and that there have been some fundamental changes nationally.
     "It is going to be tough for a while, even painful for some," he said. "But historically, Bulloch County is somewhat recession proof with the educational institutions that it has. We need to support one another, lock arms, and continue to carry on. Wall Street and Washington, D.C., don't care about Statesboro. We have to care about each other."
     Sea Island Bank president Wayne Akins echoed David's sentiments about focusing on a local level.
     "In our bank, in our community, what we do is a meat and potatoes kind of thing," Akins said. "Obviously, what is happening with the financial markets is going to have some impact, but if we all were to turn off the national news for two months, there would be little to no impact on the vast majority of people here in Bulloch County."
     Akins said that community banks such as Sea Island are lending money, it's just the rate structure has changed.
     "Depositors are demanding higher rates for savings deposits, so the banks must charge more to lend," he said. "It has become a little more expensive to borrow money. But, that is how markets work, rates change. However, we are continuing to do the things that we have always done."
     Are we "hanging in there" like David and Akins said that we are? According to Robert Harper, district manager of Books-A-Million, we are doing that and more.
     "Given the economy, we thought that hitting our budget numbers in Statesboro was going to be a feat," Harper said. "But, this store is outperforming our wildest expectations. It is performing in the top 10 percent of our company. It's unbelievable. We are so excited to be here."
     At some point, you have to say, enough is enough, and keep on living. "It's OK to go to lunch, spend a little money here or there," David said. "And yes, you can go and buy a book."
    Until next week, I bid you au revoir.
    Got a scoop for Jan? Call her at (912) 489-9463 or e-mail her at jmoore@statesboroherald.com