BARTOW, FL (Aug. 25, 2010)- By Bill Rettew, Jr. Staff Writer
The former bank lobby of Community National Bank, Monday, could have easily been confused with a party site. Festive balloons hung in the air and tables were covered with goodies to eat. Bartow's locally-owned Community National Bank was purchased late Friday by CenterState Bank. Community Bank failed and was sold "without a premium" through a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation assisted transfer, according to Dale E. Dryer, senior vice president of CenterState Bank. Still, smiles were contagious, probably since staffers met with CenterState brass during the weekend and were "relieved and excited," said Dreyer. Dreyer said all employees will keep their jobs and "not a single depositor lost a penny." CenterState bought out every depositor, both those insured and uninsured, said Dreyer. The company now has 14 branches in Polk County, with 27 overall, including branches in Marion, Orange, Indian River, Okeechobee and Hendry counties. CenterState now controls 49 banks overall, with a yearly net income, as a December 31, 2009, of $4.7 million and total assets of $1.3 billion. Bud Mears, former Community president and CEO, now Bartow CenterState executive, said Monday that a 40 percent drop in residential property values and a high concentration of residential loans led to the bank failure. "It's more acceptable for people to have their house foreclosed on," said Mears. Eighty percent of the bank's loan portfolio was residential loans, which five years ago was an indicator of a strong bank. Obtaining property at diminished values through foreclosures eroded the bank's capital, said both Mears and Dreyer. Mears, with 32 years of banking experience, said he is proud and excited to be working for CenterState and "a lot of loyal customers."