First Bank to Move Headquarters to Southern Pines
First Bancorp announced late Tuesday afternoon that it plans to move its headquarters from Troy to downtown Southern Pines, a decision hailed as “unprecedented” by local officials.
“Our bank has grown dramatically over the past few years and this new location will help us better serve our customers going forward,” said First Bancorp President and CEO Richard Moore in a statement.
The bank’s announcement came after the Moore County Board of Commissioners and Southern Pines Town Council on Tuesday approved an economic development grant to lure the corporate headquarters.
The county’s agreement, approved by a 4-1 vote at a special meeting, calls for the county to provide $15,000 a year for 10 years to help defray the bank’s costs of moving its headquarters from Troy.
“What the county commissioners just did showed great leadership and courage,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. “Not everyone is going to love what they did, and they know that. No one should take that lightly.”
Chairman Nick Picerno said he cast the lone dissenting vote for two reasons.
“First, I didn’t like the funding mechanism because the Moore County taxpayers are on the hook for everything,” Picerno said. “I think Partners should have had some skin in the game. Second, I don’t like governments of any size having to buy companies with taxpayer money.
“I know it’s ‘the game,’ but we shouldn’t have a bidding war with taxpayer money.”
Still, Picerno said he was “thrilled” that First Bank is moving its corporate headquarters to the county.
“Do I want them here? Absolutely,” he said. “Am I a customer? Absolutely. I fully support First Bank coming here. I think it will prove to be a very lucrative thing.”
Commissioner Randy Saunders agreed, saying, “I think it could be huge for us moving forward.”
Tuesday evening, the Southern Pines Town Council voted unanimously to approve $12,000 a year for 10 years to help the bank defray moving expenses.
Corso said landing the corporate headquarters of a publicly traded company makes “an incredibly important statement” about the county.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said. “Not only will there be an immediate impact, but also the long-term possibilities are endless. This may be one of the most important announcements in economic development for years to come.
“It puts another arrow in our quiver, and it’s something we can build on.”
The bank, formally known as First Bancorp, last week purchased the Hobbs Upchurch & Associates building in downtown Southern Pines for $2.65 million.
The bank said in its statement that it would seek federal and state regulatory approval to move its headquarters. It gave no timeframe for when the move would occur.
The decision has been a controversial one in Troy. Town officials have been lobbying the bank for weeks to keep all its operations there.
Moore said in the statement that the bank plans to keep about 150 of the current 190 jobs in Montgomery County.
First Bancorp has total assets of about $3.3 billion, making it the fourth-largest bank in North Carolina.
According to a contract released by Moore County Tuesday, the bank would:
n Employ no less than 30 full-time employees at its corporate headquarters with an average annual salary of $100,000, or have an aggregate annual payroll of at least $5 million;
n Account for at least 200 room nights a year in Moore County hotels and motels. The bank plans to do much of its employee training locally; and
n Give back all its public grant money if it vacates the headquarters in less than 10 years.
Business leaders and local officials have been working for years to recruit First Bank’s headquarters, but the deal finally started to crystallize in the last few months.
One final key hurdle remains. The Southern Pines Town Council was expected to consider a similar grant request at its meeting Tuesday night for the bank. The meeting occurred too late for press time.
Hobbs Upchurch, which has been located in downtown Southern Pines since its founding in 1983, moved into the three-story, 21,000-square-foot building at 300 South West Broad St. in 2000.
Fred Hobbs, co-owner of Hobbs Upchurch and a former state senator, said Monday that the company will be moving into about 5,000 square feet of space at 400 North West Broad St.
“It’s where First Bank currently has its mortgage loan operations,” Hobbs said. “We’re kind of switching out. We’ll be in our new space sometime in the second quarter.”
First Bank operates a branch at 205 South East Broad St. Its other Moore County locations include Pinecrest Plaza in Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Carthage, Pinebluff, Pinehurst, Robbins, Seven Lakes and Vass.
Overall, the bank operates 98 branches in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, where it does business as First Bank of Virginia.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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