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Astra acquires Hays bank

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Outside, a set of temporary signs on the side of the building reflected a change in ownership.

Inside, the signs of change were more subtle, including a relaxed Alan States visiting with tellers prior to being asked to sign another in a series of documents transferring ownership of the bank.

It was all part of a shift in ownership from First National Bank to Astra Bank, all of which was taking place Tuesday even as tellers greeted customers.

Even First National's website now automatically transfers to the Astra Bank site.

In the works since October, ownership in First National shifted Tuesday from States to the larger Astra Bank, with offices in Abilene, Belleville and Chapman and in Sutton, Neb. Tuesday, it added locations in Hays and Plainville.

Kyle Campbell, president and CEO of Astra, and his father, Richard, chairman of the board of the bank, were in Hays on Tuesday to complete the transaction.

Location manager Tim Smith was there as well, returning the area after a seven-year stint with Astra at its Chapman location.

Smith, whose tenure in banking started in WaKeeney, said the permanent signs for the bank will be coming soon.

"We just got the last few documents signed," Kyle Campbell said of the transfer.

With the assets from the Hays bank rolled in, the new Astra Bank, he said, will total about $250 million.

"It's a good-size bank," he said.

Hays is a good fit, Campbell said, both for the Astra bank but also for the Hays facility, which now will have a lending limit about 3.5 times larger than what could be loaned to an individual borrower when the Hays bank stood on its own.

That will open up a new chapter for the bank's lending portfolio, which for Astra historically has been rooted in small business, agriculture and residential.

Aside from Smith's appearance as location manager, there haven't been any other changes in manpower, something both he and Campbell said prompted Astra to pursue the purchase agreement with Hays.

Campbell said he's always been impressed with Hays on the occasions he's stopped here.

But he never expected the chance to do that, so when the opportunity to buy First National surfaced, he pursued it with vigor.

"We're very pleased with what we've seen in Hays," he said.

While there are few immediate changes pending, Campbell said Astra will be working to incorporate many of its existing processes into the Hays bank, including a shift in April to the Astra database.

While most of the change will be cosmetic, he said it will mean the ability for customers of the bank to conduct business at any location as if they were at their home location.

With the integrated services, Campbell said he doesn't see the distance between Abilene -- where he's based -- and Hays as a barrier.

He admits, however, he'll be spending considerable time in Hays. He will continue to be based in Abilene.