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AmSouth Bank expands to Riverside

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By Mike Sharkey
February 9, 2006

AmSouth Bank plans to open 54 new branch offices this year and one of them will be in Riverside. The two-story brick house at the corner of Margaret and Herschel streets is the future home of the 22nd AmSouth location in Northeast Florida.

“It will be our new Riverside/Avondale branch,” said Jerri Franz, a spokesperson for AmSouth locally. “We just started the renovations and expect to open this summer, probably some time in July.”

The 22 branch offices in Northeast Florida — which includes Duval, Nassau, Clay and St. Johns county with one Flagler County branch — comprises the fourth-largest branch network in the state. Tampa, the Florida headquarters for AmSouth, is the largest network.

Franz said the building was originally a residence before being converted into offices. The contractor doing the work won’t have to do a complete remodel, but the building will have to conform to bank and AmSouth standards including a teller line, security and other things typical of a branch office.

AmSouth also had to get approval to open the branch from the Federal Reserve Bank, a process Franz said can take anywhere from 90 days to six months. Approval isn’t always a guarantee, either, and most Federal Reserve denials are based on financial and building safety issues.

Franz said AmSouth considered other areas within the Northeast Florida region before settling on an area of Jacksonville that has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. With an aggressive expansion plan, the southern-based bank may not be done growing locally.

“We continue to look for attractive sites and build up our supply of sites for future expansion,” said Franz. “In the Riverside/Avondale market we were looking for a good location in an area where growth was very good. This is an attractive location.”

The all-brick building will remain virtually intact externally. The biggest change will be the addition of a drive through that will run behind the building. Franz said AmSouth understands the parking issues in Riverside, but assures that there will be enough parking for employees and customers.

The new branch will also retain its historical look. Franz said local AmSouth President Marty Lanahan is big on historical preservation and has every intention to keeping the building’s look, which is not that of a typical bank. The downtown AmSouth branch is at the corner of Laura and Bay and is also in a non-traditional bank building.

“That’s how it works sometimes,” explained Franz. “We have a branch prototype and our new construction fits that prototype. We are also renovating a 100-plus year-old building in downtown Lakeland that is similar to the one in downtown Jacksonville.”

In addition to opening 54 new branches statewide, AmSouth will also add significantly to its workforce. At a time when companies are laying people off or shifting jobs overseas, adding to the domestic workforce isn’t as common. Franz said AmSouth has several methods for recruiting its workforce.

“Our greatest resource is employee references,” said Franz, adding that depending on the employee and the job they help fill, bonuses of up to $5,000 are paid. “We also have job campaigns, job fairs and internal recruiting groups.”

Franz said the entire expansion initiative is about providing the best service possible to current and potential customers.

“We want to continue to fill in and increase the convenience to our customers and attract new customers,” said Franz.

AmSouth was started 125 years ago as First National Bank of Birmingham and has branch offices throughout the Southeast United States.

What are people saying about mortgages today:

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down last week to a seven-month low. Mortgage-giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.3 percent, down slightly from 6.31 percent two weeks ago. It put rates at the lowest level since they were at 6.24 percent the first week of March.

Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Territorial Savings Bank and Wells Fargo Home Mortgages all cut their 30-year mortgage rates to 5.75 percent this week.

Most people think of a mortgage as a means to an end. After all, you buy a house, not a home loan. But a mortgage is much more than the path to homeownership. It is a financial instrument that must be managed, just like any other financial investment.