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Firm keeps charity local

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By Todd Cohen

TROY, N.C. — A victim of budget cuts, Page Street Elementary School in Troy faced the loss of $2,000 for its subscription to the Weekly Reader, a publication that generations of teachers throughout the United States have used to teach current events.

Hearing the news, Anna Hollers, executive vice president at First Bancorp in Troy, raised the issue at a bi-weekly roundtable meeting of the company’s executive officers, noting that many of the bank’s 540 employees live in Troy.

The result was a $2,000 contribution to renew the school’s subscription.

“Our philosophy is to be ingrained in the community, to understand what is going on in those communities and to be a good corporate citizen,” says James H. Garner, the bank’s CEO and president.

The bank does not disclose how much it contributes to local causes, but Garner says the total fluctuates from year to year, depending on needs that local branch managers identify.

In his 34 years with the bank, including eight as president, it has grown from two branches in Troy and $7 million in assets to what Garner says will be 58 branches and $1.5 billion in assets by the end of this year.

The bank’s strategy, he says, is to build its business by serving small towns and counties that bigger banks typically do not serve, hiring branch managers who know their communities, and giving them the flexibility to respond to local needs.

“The people out on the line have the freedom to do things with part of their profits that they feel they can,” Garner says.

To help Northern Moore Tomorrow qualify for a state matching grant to restore a landmark railroad depot in Robbins, for example, the bank’s branch there donated $5,000, says Frances Cagle, senior vice president and branch manager.

Garner says letting branch managers respond to local needs, regardless of the size of the branch, makes good business sense.

“Every manager,” he says, “proves to his local community that he’s there to help in all of the things they do and the fundraisings they have.”

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