Sometime in May, the $140 million Hope Federal Credit Union will pick up where a bank left off – opening a branch in Utica, Miss. a rural community of 900 that lost services to an industry pullback in 2011.
In this case, Hope FCU, a Jackson-based community development credit union, is refurbishing the site of a former BancorpSouth branch, one of 23 abruptly closed last year by the Tupelo bank as unprofitable.
“We’ve already had good reception from the community and we feel we can be successful,” said William Bynum, president/CEO of Hope FCU which has branches in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Bynum said Utica, southwest of Jackson in Hinds County, remains “a solid community with a strong customer base.”
There are no current plans for Hope to seek out any of the other dormant BancorpSouth branches in other small Mississippi communities.
BancorpSouth closed the branches last May, saying it was not doing enough business to support routine expenses much less grow.
“It is a fact,” said Bynum, “that Mississippi as well as portions of Arkansas and Tennessee remain the most unbanked areas of the nation.”
Bynum also noted that Hope has managed to profit from other large banks leaving the area, including receiving donated property from Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Bank.