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Business

Banks roll with strong mortgage wave

Established banks say they've exceeded their goals. The county's 12th bank has new goals.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published February 15, 2004

Local banks rode Hernando County's strong housing wave in 2003, which also enticed a new startup to test the waters.

Spurred by low interest rates, thousands flocked to banks seeking mortgages to buy new homes or to refinance existing homes. Local bank chiefs said they expect the trend to slow some but to show continued strength this year.

"We've been giving out money left and right," said Donna Lipidarov, assistant vice president of Capital City Bank, which opened a second branch on Spring Hill Drive in 2003. "We've met and exceeded our goals and budgets."

SunTrust remains the largest bank in Hernando County, with 46.3 percent of the market share as of June 2003, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. And the bank saw a record-breaking year for home mortgage activity across the North Suncoast, said Jim Kimbrough, chairman and chief executive officer of SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast.

"In addition to mortgage rates, this north Tampa Bay area seems to be attracting increased attention from regional and national home builders, and all that spells more rooftops in Hernando County and the surrounding areas," Kimbrough said.

The county's second-largest bank, Bank of America, also had a busy home mortgaging year, with applications for mortgages up 40 percent throughout the county, senior vice president Melanie Price said. Bank of America has 20 percent of the local market share, regaining a bit of lost ground from 2002, according to FDIC records.

The bank is putting its staff through additional mortgage loan training and has increased its budget for loan production for its Hernando County branches, Price said.

No other bank in the county had more than 8 percent of the market share.

In its four-year existence, First Kensington Bank, which was started in Spring Hill, has managed to hang on to about 5 percent of the market share, making it the county's fifth-largest bank. The bank grew again in 2003 and hopes to add a Hernando County branch in 2004. The bank makes a lot of loans to construction companies, as well as consumers.

"It's been a very favorable year to us," said Gerald Archibald, the bank's president and chief executive. "We're real proud of our progress - still growing."

Zephyrhills-based Community National Bank will move into a larger location near State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard in June. The bank opened in Hernando in late 2002 and saw a strong first year, senior vice president Morris Porton said. The bank already has plans for a second branch in 2005 and a third in 2007.

"It's going well, no complaints," Porton said.

Cortez Community Bank is joining Hernando County's banking ranks this year. Supported by a cadre of local business and community leaders, including lawyer Tom Hogan Jr. and developer Derrill McAteer, the bank opened its doors in Brooksville this month. Cortez Community has raised $7.5-million in capital, more than the $6.5-million minimum it needs to open. By January, the bank was fully staffed and preparing its office at 20 S Broad St.

Cortez Community is the county's 12th bank, and chief executive Donald Page said he thinks there is more than enough room for a new hometown community bank in the county.

"We're going to be offering a lot of really nice services," Page said. "And we're going to make the decisions here, at this level."

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]


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