Originally created 04/25/06

Aiken bank looks to Evans



Last year, an Augusta-based community bank decided to cross the river and enter the Aiken market. Now it's time for reciprocation.

Aiken-based Security Federal Bank's parent company disclosed in its quarterly earnings report Monday that it has acquired property in Evans, which gives the region's second-largest community bank a foothold in the fast-growing Columbia County market.

If a branch office is built as planned, it would be the first time in recent memory that an Aiken-based community bank has expanded to Georgia.

"It's going to be our headquarters for the Columbia County area," Security Federal President Timothy W. Simmons said Monday.

He added that the office near the intersection of Evans to Locks and North Belair roads would likely support smaller branches.

"We would probably be looking at the opportunity to branch out from that building during the next five years," he said.

In July, the parent company of Augusta's Georgia Bank & Trust announced plans to open a federally chartered thrift at 1001 Pine Log Road in Aiken.

It marked the first time in recent history that an Augusta-based institution had expanded into South Carolina.

The branch is pending approval from the federal Office of Thrift Supervision.

Security Federal's proposed full-service branch on a 1.5-acre parcel behind Fairway Ford would employ about 10 people when it opens next summer. The undeveloped lot was purchased for $1.07 million from Fairway Ford in January, according to Columbia County public records.

Mr. Simmons said the company spent many months considering an expansion to Georgia.

In addition to tapping into Columbia County's lucrative construction lending and mortgage business, the company said, it is trying to better serve individual consumers.

"We have customers who work on one side and live on the other and vice versa," Mr. Simmons said.

The closest of the company's 11 branches to Augusta is its North Augusta office just across the river.

Architectural details of the new branch will not be released until next week, Mr. Simmons said.

He said he would expect a branch of that size to have a negative impact on earnings for about 18 months to three years.

The company's fiscal year ended March 31.

Security Federal Corp. on Monday reported year-end profits of $3.8 million, or $1.51 per basic share, an 8.8 percent increase from $3.5 million, or $1.39 per basic share, for the same period the previous year.

For the quarter, which included the Evans land acquisition, the company reported net income of $976,000, or 38 cents per basic share, a 1.6 percent drop from the $992,000, or 39 cents per basic share, for the same period the previous year.

Total assets as of March 31 were $658.7 million, a 12.4 percent increase compared with the $586 million reported March 31, 2005.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.