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Centra Bank to spend its time focusing on community banking

January 09, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - Citing a desire to provide more localized banking services than are available now, several area businessmen announced Monday that they plan to open a new bank in Hagerstown this spring.

Centra Bank Hagerstown will be "a truly community bank," said Michael A. Murray, one of six founding directors.

"Access to management will be local; everyone involved will be local," Murray said.

Board members said the bank was being formed because various mergers and consolidations of other area banks had left Hagerstown without its own local bank. They said they believe consumers want a "community-centered, consumer-driven bank."

Murray said that because so many banks have merged or consolidated, decisions affecting local customers often are made in other states.

Curt Spicher, another founding director, said the result is that "people trying to get loans can't speak to anybody" locally about their applications.

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Murray said he'd been hearing such stories from a number of people. With this bank, he said, decisions would be made in Hagerstown.

The new bank will be affiliated with Morgantown, W.Va.-based Centra Bank, which Murray said is a community banking network that provides support to individually chartered banks that are managed in their own communities.

Centra has affiliates in Morgantown and Martinsburg, W.Va., and in Uniontown, Pa., making Centra Bank Hagerstown its fourth affiliate.

Murray, president and owner of Direct Mail Processors Inc., said he and other local businessmen saw a need for a community-based bank, and that affiliating with Centra offered an "opportunity not to reinvent the wheel."

Two former senior vice presidents of Hagerstown Trust Co. will serve as the bank's top officials. Timothy G. Henry will be chief executive officer, and Mark D. Harrell will serve as president and chief operating officer.

The opening date will depend on completion of regulatory approvals, Henry said, which he expects within 60 days.

In the meantime, bank officials are drawing plans for headquarters and branch locations.

Henry and Harrell said they had chosen to join the venture because of the new bank's emphasis on local management and community.

"That's the appeal of what we're doing here," Henry said. "It allows you to bring as a banker what you want to bring to it."

"I was born and raised in this community," Harrell said, adding that plans for Centra Bank offered a chance to "start a new bank but have an infrastructure behind you."

He said keeping management local means "we will be able to treat our customers like guests, not a number." It also means fewer and lower fees for services, he said.

"You will not have an answering machine here," Henry said, adding that in addition to the safety nets of federal regulation and deposit insurance, Centra Bank would be "accountable to the community."

More information about the services the bank will offer will be available this spring, he said. A variety of personal, business and mortgage products are offered at Centra Bank's other three affiliates, according to its Web site, www.centrabank.com.

The Martinsburg bank opened in 2001, and has three branches. Bank President Henry Kayes said work on a fourth branch is scheduled to start this summer, and that the bank has 50 employees and the second-largest market share in Berkeley County.

Once Securities and Exchange Commission approvals are in place, Centra Bank plans a stock offering to give local investors a chance to purchase stock in the new bank, Murray said.

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