This has been an important year for AgSouth Farm Credit, the largest Agricultural farm credit cooperative in Georgia. This year marks the company’s centennial and along with the celebration comes a time of transition and expansion of the company’s headquarters in downtown Statesboro.
“We’re looking back and looking ahead to where we’re going,” said Pat Calhoun, AgSouth’ s new CEO, named to lead the lender into the next century in July of 2016.
Calhoun was chosen by the AgSouth Board of Directors after what Chairman of the Board William T. Robinson said was “a rigorous search process for the new CEO, the board is confident that Mr. Calhoun is the right person to continue the positive growth of one of the strongest agricultural cooperatives in the southeast and to ensure that AgSouth will continue to be able to serve agriculture and our rural communities well into the future.”
Calhoun has over 25 years with Farm Credit beginning in 1988 as a loan officer with Southeast Georgia Farm Credit. Through mergers, the cooperative became what is now AgSouth, and Calhoun has held positions as Team Leader, Regional Lending Manager, and, most recently, Executive Vice President with responsibilities as Director of Risk Management and Corporate Loan Manager.
Calhoun was tapped to replace retiring 29-year veteran President and CEO William T. Spigener, Jr., who was at the helm when AgSouth renovated and revitalized two iconic downtown Statesboro buildings, the Old Post Office/City Hall and the Piggly Wiggly, which had been vacant for several years when it was repurposed as AgSouth’s Statesboro branch.
Calhoun, Spigener, and Georgia Divisional President Craig Peebles were all with AgSouth when the first expansion took place. Since then, AgSouth has been operating with three administrative offices located in Spartanburg and Orangeburg, S.C. and in Statesboro. After Calhoun was chosen this summer as the new CEO, plans were announced that all administrative offices would be relocated to the Statesboro corporate office for consolidation.
“Our board of directors have been looking at consolidating our corporate headquarters for about a year,” said Calhoun.
“We had the three administrative offices to choose from,” said Peebles. “Some of our board members also thought Lexington, S.C., and Aiken, S.C., would also make great central locations for our corporate headquarters.”
“We were looking at several criteria,” Calhoun said. “Ease of access for transportation, good employment pools to attract and retain great employees. Locations that would be attractive to employee’s families as well with good schools, opportunities for community engagement, and good employment for family members.”
The company also looked at access to I-16, proximity to Savannah, and higher education opportunities such as Georgia Southern University and Ogeechee Technical College.
“When we began to consider consolidation of the corporate offices, we didn’t have a new CEO,” said Peebles. “It probably helped that the new CEO lived here when the decision was made.”
Historically, AgSouth had already invested heavily in the downtown area.
“And Statesboro is a great place to work,” said Calhoun. “Most of our resources and staff were already here.”
CFO Alisa D. Gunter will be moving to Statesboro at the beginning of this year.
“We’re making a huge investment in the Statesboro community, not only by putting money into infrastructure but by adding additional jobs,” said Gunter. “In the past 13 years, AgSouth has increased our gross loan portfolio by more than 51 percent, and we are proud to be one of the most successful agricultural cooperatives in the Southeast.”
With over $1.9 billion in gross loan volume, AgSouth’s continued growth and patronage program for members will continue to make it an excellent corporate neighbor with dividends reinvested into the communities it serves far into the future.
Relocating all administrative offices to Statesboro will mean a new third building addition to the AgSouth campus for which the company has acquired property directly behind and adjacent to its current location. The new building will include approximately 30 offices and a meeting room available for agricultural and civic club use. The three facilities will be joined by a green space area which the two existing buildings will be modified to face. When completed, the AgSouth complex will cover nearly three acres downtown.
Two Statesboro firms have been engaged for design and construction: John Rule of DPR Architecture and John Lavender of Lavender & Associates, Inc. Completion of the project is scheduled for the fall of 2017.
The 11,200 square feet of new offices will house central staff and executive management in areas of operations, accounting and human resources. An additional 20 positions will be located here. Administrative offices in Spartanburg and Orangeburg will consolidate with the Statesboro corporate offices, but the transition will not affect the branch locations in those cities.
In creating the campus downtown, AgSouth is working with the City of Statesboro on closing an alleyway that transects the property through the green courtyard area. The Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, The Bulloch County Development Authority and The Blue Mile committee have also been helping to accommodate AgSouth in their expansion plans.
“We also considered locating in Statesboro possibly on the bypass or at the Ag Center,” said Calhoun, “but ultimately our customer base knows us downtown. Our employees like downtown, and we already have a significant investment in downtown.”
AgSouth is ultimately looking to have 70+ employees in Statesboro with room for growth. The design anticipates growth in staff in the new building and in the Statesboro branch.
Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore said, “This additional investment of over $3 million will increase the number of local AgSouth employees to 60 with an annual payroll in excess of $6 million. The economic impact for our area will be tremendous on many fronts, and I am very hopeful it will be the catalyst for major redevelopment within the heart of our city. Have no doubt, this is a game changes for our city, and I could not be more thrilled.”
Ag South currently serves 59 counties in Georgia and 34 counties in South Carolina. There are currently 25 branch offices located throughout that area, plus three administrative offices.
“Having all of our administrative functions in one location will really help us to grow and to improve our efficiency,” said Calhoun. “Technology has allowed us to communicate effectively, but the new layout will allow a continuity of the family feel of our organization. Now, we’ll have face to face time with each other to connect.”
Calhoun added, “We are excited about the opportunity to expand our campus in the downtown area. The new facility will complement our existing downtown facilities and help us to continue our tradition of investing in Statesboro.”