Farmers plants in N. Suffolk

Published 11:45 pm Friday, November 20, 2009

Farmers Bank may have its headquarters in Windsor, but its commitment to the city of Suffolk should be pretty clear, bank representatives said on Friday.

On hand at the Harbour View East Shopping Center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the bank’s fifth branch office and third in Suffolk, Farmers President and CEO Dick Holland challenged employees, city officials and business leaders to “measure our commitment” to Suffolk by noticing Farmers’ recent focus on the city.

The last three branches the bank has built have been in Suffolk, he said, and the city now hosts more Farmers locations than does Isle of Wight.

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“With the growth Suffolk has seen over the past years, we really saw a need in the area for the unique service Farmers Bank offers our customers,” Holland said. “North Suffolk is the fastest growing area of Suffolk, and we made a commitment to Suffolk. We want to have a footprint across Suffolk when we’re done.

And Holland said the bank isn’t done building in the city. The storefront bank where Friday’s celebration took place eventually will be replaced by a freestanding location at the corner of Harbour View Boulevard and Champion Way. And there likely will be other locations, as well.

“There’s other parts of Suffolk we’re not in,” he said. “Suffolk has been very good to us.”

Farmers was so anxious to get a presence in North Suffolk that bank officials chose not to wait for the economy to improve enough to allow construction of a top-notch freestanding facility, Holland said. In fact, even the buildout at the shopping center went on at a frenetic pace. Just 21 days after receiving a building permit, the bank received its certificate of occupancy.

“This allows us to come to this market sooner,” he said as visitors explored the narrow carpeted lobby and its soft leather armchairs, flat-screen television and mini computer.

The branch will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays. An ATM capable of accepting deposits without envelopes will be accessible 24 hours a day in a foyer at the front of the building.

Farmers will offer personal banking, business banking and loan and credit card services at the branch.

Far from being intimidated by the dominating presence of a sparkling new branch of TowneBank nearing completion just down the road — as well as the TowneBank headquarters building even closer — Holland seemed energized by the nearby competition.

“Many banks claim to be community banks,” he said. “We have a 90-year track record.”

The key, he added, is Farmers’ capable and committed staff.

“I’m just so pleased and proud of our staff,” he said. “They’ve poured their heart and soul into this bank.”