Hays bank buying Jetmore bank
By MIKE CORN
Calling it a good fit, Bank of Hays CEO Randy Walker is happy about his bank's purchase of Farmers State Bank of Jetmore.
"We're excited," he said Tuesday.
Walker said he started having conversations with owners of the Jetmore bank several months ago.
"They said it was getting tougher and tougher," he said of the regulatory environment facing banks, especially small community banks that must abide by the same rules as the bigger banks.
"Bank of Hays is a respected bank, and we are pleased to become part of their banking family," Stacy Olson, Farmers State Bank president and CEO, said in a statement.
For the Bank of Hays, it's a good fit because it already owns Hanston State Bank, just 10 miles away from Jetmore.
Once the sale is completed, Walker said, employees from both facilities can be shuffled back and forth to handle staffing needs during vacations.
Also, he said, "a significant portion of our customers in Hanston actually live in Jetmore."
That could save a number of trips for customers who no longer would have to drive from Jetmore to Hanston to conduct business with the bank. Hanston also operates a branch office in Lewis.
Walker said the Jetmore bank has approximately $25 million, while the Hays bank has nearly $210 million.
That's a huge increase since Bank of Hays opened in December 2004 with just $30 million in assets.
Walker credits the Hays economy for the growth.
"I think Ellis County has been largely unaffected," he said of the economic downturn across the country. "Farmers are doing well. Oil is doing well. Everywhere you look, our economy seems to be hitting on all cylinders."
Walker also thinks the timing was just right.
The bright farming economy, however, contributed to struggles at the Jetmore bank as farmers -- many of whom were receiving large checks for leasing their land to oil companies for exploration -- were going into the bank and paying off loans.
"That made it difficult for them to make money," Walker said. "The last couple of years has been nip and tuck."
Not only have they had to absorb regulatory costs, but making fewer loans cuts into their income.
"For us to work," Walker said of the Hays facility remaining profitable, "we need to make loans. And that's what we intend to do."
Because the Hays bank is larger, its lending limits are bigger and will be able to meet some of the needs of larger farmers.
Once regulatory approval is granted, expected later this year, Walker said they plan to provide services that previously weren't available, such as Internet banking, real estate loans and eventually an ATM.
The Jetmore bank will retain its local identity, keeping the Farmers State Bank of Jetmore name, operating as a branch of Bank of Hays.