Heritage buying five south Georgia bank branches

ALBANY -- Heritage Bank of the South announced Thursday it has signed an agreement with Park Avenue Bank to purchase five bank branches in Georgia from PAB Bankshares.

Heritage Bank of the South CEO Len Dorminey said the five branches that Heritage Bank is purchasing are located in Adel, Hazelhurst, Baxley and two in Statesboro.

He said the mutual agreement between the two banks will benefit both institutions.

"They (PAB) were wanting to shrink their branches and we thought acquiring these specific branches would help us add critical mass in that area of Georgia," Dorminey said Thursday while on the road visiting the new branches. "These are markets that will fit well within our footprint."

He said the acquisition of the additional branches from PAB allows Heritage Bank a chance to expand strategically into the market that was created by the the December acquisition of Tattnall Bank in Reidsville through an FDIC-assisted transaction.

"The Adel branch is certainly in line with the footpath we have in Florida, it fills it in nicely. We now have an easier flow to our branches in Ocala and Lake City," said Dorminey. "The branches in Statesboro also allow our customers in those communities more convenience."

Heritage Bank of the South Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer T. Heath Fountain said the transaction will result in the transfer of approximately $52 million in loans, $72 million in deposits and $26 million in certificates of deposit maturing within 45 days of date of closing.

"The great thing about this transaction is that we are going to retain all the employees at the branches," he said. "We are trying to make it as seamless as possible. Customers in these new markets should not be greatly affected by the change."

"The employees are the real link between the bank and the community,"Dorminey said. "I think it's not going to be too much of a culture shock when everything is transferred over. We want the communities to be as comfortable as possible with the transition."

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

"We are excited about the opportunity to serve these communities," said Dorminey. "PAB is a well-established and well-managed community bank in those areas. We hope to expand on that history and provide additional service to our new customers."