Originally created 01/27/01

Building will house brokers



Dollar by dollar, brick by brick, People's Community Bank has built up its business in Aiken County.

The efforts of the former start-up business, which is slightly more than 3 years old, are beginning to pay both figurative and literal dividends.

People's Community Capital Corp., parent to the local bank chain's branches and services, is celebrating its recent transition into profitability. The corporation announced Wednesday that it will pay a 5 percent dividend March 1 - its first such payout since forming in September 1997.

In a few months, People's will celebrate again with the opening of a combined downtown banking center and headquarters.

Already taking shape, the 10,000-square-foot full-service banking center fits snugly on its lot at 125 Park Ave., between Hutson-Etherredge Cos. insurers and Hull, Towill, Norman, Barrett and Salley attorneys.

The $1.5 million building will be arguably the largest private investment in downtown Aiken in years, Mr. Wessinger said.

Another project under construction, Washington Group International's Government Services building on Newberry Street, will be a more than $3 million investment by that company, but an adjoining theater portion of the building will be paid for, in part, with public funds. Washington Group will have no ownership over the theater side, which will be the future home of Aiken Community Playhouse.

"I'm excited about all the construction that's going on in downtown," Mayor Fred B. Cavanaugh said. "They (the bank's board members) have confidence in the vitality of downtown Aiken. They could have just as easily moved outside the city."

Tommy Wessinger, chairman and chief executive officer of People's, said the 10 employees stationed in temporary offices on Park Avenue will move to the new building in April or early May.

Work began on the new location in November based on design work by Virgo Gambill Architects of North Augusta. Mr. Wessinger said the construction, provided by R.D. Brown Contractors Inc., is on schedule.

"We're progressing at a pace that meets those (move-in) deadlines," he said.

The CEO said he'll be glad when the changeover does happen. "We're in a temporary facility now that doesn't have a drive-through facility or adequate parking."

In addition to the basics, People's Financial Services Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank that brokers stock trades and similar transactions, will be housed in the location, along with the corporation's Internet banking services, www.pcbOnline.net.

When completed, the office will be the largest of the bank's three locations, all in Aiken County. People's has a 3,000-square-foot office on Whiskey Road and a 3,500-square-foot branch on Georgia Avenue in North Augusta. Those two locations opened in 1997.

The temporary offices on Park Avenue began offering full services in September 1998.

People's Community Capital Corp. announced Tuesday that net income from its operations was $163,413 for the fourth quarter of 2000, as compared to $94,853 for the fourth quarter of 1999.

For 2000, net income was $566,620, compared to $343,110 a year earlier, representing a 65 percent increase. The company's divisions became cumulatively profitable in the first quarter of last year.

As of Dec. 31, the bank had reached $61.8 million in assets, a 13 percent increase since Dec. 31, 1999.

People's Community Capital Corp.'s stock is traded on the Nasdaq Over-the-Counter Market under the symbol PPLM.

"It is the customers and associates that make a bank successful, and we are fortunate to count both among our shareholder base," Mr. Wessinger said.

Reach Eric Williamson at (706) 828-3904.