NASHVILLE – FirstBank, the wholly owned subsidiary of First South Bancorp, Inc., and the third largest Tennessee-based bank, announced today the signing of a definitive agreement under which FirstBank will acquire Northwest Georgia Bank in Ringgold, Ga. Northwest Georgia Bank reported total assets of $298 million and deposits of $265 million as of March 31. Terms of the pending acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter, were not disclosed.
“We’re looking forward to increasing our presence in the Chattanooga and North Georgia areas, which have shown tremendous gains in recent years in terms of economic vitality and have gone through a renaissance that has received nationwide attention,” said FirstBank President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Holmes.
FirstBank entered the Chattanooga market in 2008 when it opened a main office on Chestnut Street and a branch operation on Hamilton Place Boulevard. The pending acquisition of Northwest Georgia Bank will increase FirstBank’s assets to $2.8 billion, giving it additional branches in Hamilton County, Tenn., (Hixson and Ooltewah-Collegedale) and in Catoosa County, Ga. (Ringgold and Ft. Oglethorpe). It will also elevate FirstBank’s deposit market share from 22nd to sixth in the Chattanooga Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Following significant growth in the Nashville and Middle Tennessee markets, FirstBank has been exploring opportunities to increase its Chattanooga presence. “This is an important market for us, and we’re excited about the opportunity to join forces with Northwest Georgia Bank and to build on our base of consumer and business customers in the area. We’re also looking forward to establishing a more robust banking presence in Georgia.”
“We understand the expectations of customers who want local bankers making local decisions. We know that customers also want to have access to the financial products and services offered at larger banks. We’re excited about making new friends and building new relationships with the communities in Northwest Georgia as well as in Chattanooga.”
“This is a perfect fit for our customers in Northwest Georgia and Chattanooga,” said Steve Rownd, president and chief executive officer of Northwest Georgia Bank. “FirstBank understands small markets and urban markets. They understand that our customers expect to have a true relationship with their bank and expect great service. This is exactly what they will get with FirstBank.”
Rownd joined Northwest Georgia Bank in 2013 following the retirement of former longtime bank president Wesley Smith. Previously, he served as chairman and chief executive officer at GreenBank in Greenville, Tenn., and helped merge that bank with Florida-based Capital Bank in 2011.
“As the board of directors considered selling the bank, their top priority was to bring in a strong, reputable institution that would treat our customers and the communities we serve with the same down-home service Northwest Georgia Bank has provided for more than 100 years,” Rownd said. “FirstBank, under the leadership of owner and Chairman Jim Ayers and President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Holmes, will do just that.”
FirstBank was advised on the acquisition agreement by UBS Investment Bank and the law firm of Bass, Berry & Sims. Northwest Georgia Bank was advised by Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, Inc., and the law firm of Bryan Cave.