70 Years of Success
Farmers & Merchants Celebrates Milestone
When local attorney Gerald Edenfield was just a lad, he asked H. M. Robertson, Jr., the president of Farmers & Merchants Bank of Brooklet from 1966 – 1973, for a loan to purchase livestock for his 4-H project. Edenfield, now a FMB director, remembers Robertson giving him the money for some pigs and when he went back to repay the loan at the end of the year, “the lady didn’t know me, so I pulled out my grade school picture and said, ‘This is me!’”
That memory of the investment Robertson made in young Edenfield is part of the legacy of one of Bulloch County’s strongest banks; the only locally owned financial institution in the County today, celebrating 70 years of successful operations in 2018.
A news story in the October 30, 1947 issue of the Bulloch Times stated, “First steps toward the organization of a new chartered bank for Brooklet were taken at a meeting Tuesday night, when officers were selected, a name chosen, and the capital stock subscribed. The name of the new bank will be Farmers and Merchants Bank; capital stock will be $25,000; surplus subscribed, $5,000; directors Floyd A. Akins, T. E. Davis, W. O. Denmark, Glenn Harper, J. L. Minick, H. M. Robertson, Jr., and J. W. Wyatt. From the board T. E. Davis was named president and cashier.*
A charter was granted on February 4, 1948, and on Tuesday, February 17, Farmers and Merchants Bank of Brooklet opened for business in the former location of the Bank of Brooklet which operated from 1906 – 1932, followed by the Brooklet Banking Company, which was privately funded from 1934 – 1947. Farmers & Merchants Bank was incorporated as a Georgia banking corporation for the purpose of conducting a commercial banking business from Bulloch County, Georgia.
From that meeting of Brooklet businessmen until today, Farmers & Merchants Bank has operated as a financial institution dedicated to the commercial growth and prosperity of the area it serves. The mission statement affirms, “Our mission is to build long-term shareholder value through balanced growth and profitability, providing a pleasant and enjoyable work environment that is conducive to longevity of employment and continued personal growth, and enhancing the quality of life in the communities we serve through active involvement by our directors, officers and staff.”
That dedication to involvement and investment in the community at large has added to the bank’s prosperity. In 1976, a stand-alone Statesboro branch was opened in College Plaza Shopping Center on Fair Road, and in 1988, a branch opened in the Winn Dixie in Gentilly Plaza.
Over the years the bank had grown to become a full service banking institution offering a full range of deposit services, including a variety of checking and savings accounts, CDs, IRAs, and short to medium term commercial, agri-business and personal loans. Commercial loans include funds for working capital, business expansion and purchase of equipment and machinery. The bank also offers fixed and variable mortgage loans and real estate construction and acquisition loans.
Growth continued when FMB opened a main branch on North Main Street in Statesboro in 1991. The two story brick structure was built by Jeff Pope, who currently serves on the FMB board, and his father of Pope Construction Company. Construction of the Brannen Street location followed and it opened in the fall of 2006.
According to director Lee Cromley, the bank’s success is based on community support.
“I can remember growing up in Brooklet, and the center of the community was the bank and the church. That’s where you saw everybody. People would come in to cash a check and stay 30 minutes. There was always a good feeling of community. The founders of the bank were the founders of the community. My father served on the board of directors and I’m the second generation to serve,” said Cromley.
Director Frank C. Rozier, III, agrees, “It has been the personal relationships sustained with the people of this community and their families that have been the foundation and the strength of Farmers and Merchants Bank.”
Local businessman Leonard Blount, FMB director and principal at Capstone Benefits Consulting, LLC, stated, “Our employees make the difference at FMB, some being with the bank over 30 years. Those familiar faces are what brings happiness to our many customers.”
Many of FMB’s directors and employees actively serve in the community in volunteer positions on the boards of charities, civic organizations, non-profits such as the Averitt Center for the Arts, and in other leadership positions. For example, FMB Vice President Trish Tootle is currently the 2018 Chair of the board of directors of the Statesboro/Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce. In addition, FMB has a long record of supporting special community projects including purchasing a booth at Paulson Stadium to help raise money for the stadium’s construction.
“Even in the down times, we’ve always had a great group of directors and employees who have believed in the bank. Our customers have been loyal for many years,” said Edenfield. “After the second World War, soldiers could come to Farmers and Merchants and if they had served, they could get a loan. People remember that kind of commitment.”
“It has been said the Greatest Generation emerged from World War II to build the mightiest and most prosperous nation on earth,” stated director Doug Lambert. “Similarly the founders of Farmers and Merchants built a bank from its humble beginnings in Brooklet, Georgia, into the modern financial institution it is today without ever losing sight of their commitment to serve our local communities.”
“We continue to grow and serve our community of customers,” said Brett Morgan, current bank president, “We completed renovations on the main branch in 2016 and we are currently renovating the Brooklet branch. This Christmas we hosted a luncheon party for our senior customers, attended by well over 300, a 30-year tradition of showing them our appreciation.”
“We have changed rapidly and the change will continue,” stated board chairman Gary Davis. “We have everything a large bank has – mobile banking online, cash management, remote deposits – we offer technology and security. Add to that products and services, marketing and community involvement, plus the very strong support of our customers, and you will find the reason for our success: We offer first class banking rooted in small town values.”
*Statesboro 1866 – 1966: A Century of Progress, Leodel Coleman, Editor, Bulloch Herald Publishing Co., Statesboro, Georgia.