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|Fueled by solid growth, Progressive Bank makes move westward|
Like several other northeast Louisiana community banks, Progressive Bank is looking to tap more markets westward.
Progressive Bank president and chairman George Cummings expects the bank to open more branches in the Shreveport market and possibly in the Dallas market at some point in the future.
Cummings' father was the first president of Progressive Bank when it opened its doors for business in Winnsboro some 33 years ago. The bank began operating in a mobile home and has grown to seven branches in north Louisiana with $368 million in total assets.
"We're managing money approaching $700 million," Cummings said. "We've been very blessed and fortunate to have that growth."
Over the summer, Progressive expanded into the Shreveport market, opening a new location in Bossier City.
In the Shreveport market, Cummings said Progressive is ahead of its target goals.
"We've only been open since July 2, but our deposits have grown more rapidly than what we have budgeted, and so has our loan volume," Cummings said.
He said Progressive spent several years finding the right people in the Shreveport market to run its bank operations there. Now, their customers are following them to Progressive Bank.
"It's a continuation of the model that worked in Winnsboro and Ouachita Parish," Cummings explained. "We expect to continue to work here; we're just taking it down Interstate 20. We're running our I-20 corridor strategy, and we intend to buy a piece of property in Shreveport, hopefully in the next week or two. Sometime next year we'll begin construction on a building in Shreveport."
Progressive Bank also wants to open more branches in Ouachita Parish.
Meanwhile, Progressive could look to expand into the Texas markets, maybe as far as Dallas, over the next several years, Cummings said.
"Today, our main focus is north Louisiana," he said. "But we're preparing for the expansion of our company over the next several years down the I-20 corridor."
Like most community banks in Louisiana, Progressive Bank has not noticed any difference in business despite the financial situation that's gripped the United States.
He said overall the economy in Ouachita Parish has remained steady due to the fact that it has never had the "giant boom times, nor the big collapses."
"We tend to last longer as a steady economy compared to other parts of the country because we didn't boom with them," Cummings continued. "We just had nice steady growth, so when there's a slowdown, it's slower to get here than in a more industrialized area.
"Usually we don't fall as far as other parts of the country. The recessions generally aren't as deep."
Cummings said the unemployment rate in Ouachita Parish is lower than other areas of the United States. That's the case, too, in light of the loss of State Farm and Guide over the past two years.
He said some people did leave after the two companies ceased operations here, but there were many others who went to work at other businesses, and some even started new businesses.
"What we need do is grow our economy and try to grow jobs, and not hunker down too much during the slower time," Cummings said. "We've got to expand and build on our strength, which is entrepreneurs."
"Generally, we should be proud of how we weathered those two industries leaving our community," he added.
Cummings commended CenturyTel, which announced last week it would merge with EMBARQ, a telecommunications company based in Overland Park, Kan.
"That speaks volumes about them and the people leading that corporation," Cummings said. "They've brought new people into our community and added to our culture over the last decade. That helps offset some of the negative things that people tend to focus on."
Regarding local bank operations, he said loan quality remains strong in the region while there are reports nationwide that loans have been harder to obtain.
"Our bank has money to lend. We have plenty of liquidity, and we've been blessed with good deposit and loan growth. Community banks didn't start this problem. It didn't start on main street, it started on Wall Street, and to an extent, it started with the federal government and particular types of regulation," Cummings said.
He said people need to give recent actions by the federal government time to work. Capital has been poured into the largest banks in the country, and Cummings believes they are safe. However, he said the United States needs to look strongly at its underwriting standards since some lenders in the country made loans that should not have been made. People must be more responsible and understand the details of their loans, he said.