Growing at home

Published 1:57 pm Saturday, February 7, 2009

Men wearing steel-toed boots climbed scaffolds, shoveled red dirt and operated front-end loaders Friday outside First Cahawba Bank’s new building on Citizens Parkway.

“The weather cooperated with us in the beginning,” bank president Kelly Jones said. “We had about one and a half months of no rain. We’re three months ahead of schedule.”

First Cahawba Bank will move into its new, red brick building April 17 and open doors to customers April 20. The building features an additional drive-through lane, a vault for safety deposit boxes, an ATM and an additional 3,500 square feet. There is even space for expansion on the second floor. The total cost for the 6,000 square foot building is $1.4 million.

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Construction workers finished hanging sheetrock inside the building and preparations were being made Friday to pave the parking lot in front of the bank.

While many large, national banks are closing doors and laying-off employees, First Cahawba is expanding.

“Smaller community banks are not facing the same economic doom and gloom as larger banks,” Jones said.

Chairman of the board Catesby R. Jones the bank’s first goal is to help Selma and Dallas County. First Cahawba is not backing down from lending money. Catesby said the key is just to make smart loans.

“We’re more in the aggressive mode,” Catesby said. “We’ve got the money to lend.”

Since opening in September 2007, First Cahawba acquired $46 million in assets. Catesby said 70 percent of the bank’s beginning capital came from Dallas County. The bank’s new building is also a way to thank the community for its support.

“I think it’s a positive for Selma and Dallas County to have a community bank,” he said.

Chamber of Commerce president Laurie Cothran said the construction shows First Cahawba is confident in its customers, despite tough economic times.

“It’s a large financial investment, and it shows they really believe Selma will support it,” Cothran said.

Catesby said the bank’s personal relationships with customers and the community is what keeps people coming back.

“We feel like we’re here to help the community out,” he said.

Everyone is excited to move into the new building. Bank teller Carla Ross cannot wait to see the first customer open the door and walk past the fountain that will sit at the entrance.

“It’s going to be great to see the customers come in and see their faces,” Ross said.

First Cahawba Bank is currently housed in a gray, portable building. Kelly said there is not enough space for employees even. One woman works on her laptop in the kitchen.

“We won’t be as cramped in there,” Kelly said of the new building. “A two-year dream is now reality.”