PUTNAM COUNTY – A Lebanon-based bank that’s among the top 10 largest in the state is eyeing Cookeville and hopes to open a branch locally within the next 30 days.
Wilson Bank & Trust announced its plans for expansion this week. John McDearman, executive vice president, said officials are actively looking for that temporary location with plans to find a more permanent address. He expects they’ll secure that spot in the next 30 days depending on regulatory approval.
Wilson Bank & Trust, which has 25 offices in Middle Tennessee, has a presence already in the Upper Cumberland, with offices in DeKalb and Smith counties. Efforts to target Cookeville in particular have picked up in recent years, McDearman said.
“Kelly (Perdue, vice president) has been working in that market for at least three years and we have shareholders in that market, but Cookeville really became part of our strategic plans over the last 36 months,” he said. “We saw there was the opportunity to make a difference and we felt like it was more viable to have a physical presence.
“The most appealing part is that Cookeville is a good mix between rural and metropolitan,” he added. “The university (Tennessee Tech) has touched people all over our Middle Tennessee market and the areas we serve. We also see Cookeville as the center in that part of the state. There’s a whole group of counties and people who depend on Putnam County. It’s a good size city, but it’s got that small-town community feel that rallies around its small business but is also open to new announcements and growth, like we’ve seen recently” with Academy Sports + Outdoors, which is building a 1.6 million distribtion center, and TTI/Oreck, which will double its workforce over the next five years.
The announcement and press release also referenced the hire of Cheryl Sandlin, who has been tapped as the bank’s Putnam County president. Sandlin has been a banker in Cookeville for the past 15 years with both First National Bank and First Tennessee Bank. She’s actively involved with the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Cookeville CityScape, Genesis House, Relay for Life, Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association and more.
As far as other hires, the Cookeville branch will likely start out with around five to seven employees, McDearman said. The Cookeville office will also be full service branch. But when it comes to goals for local market share, number of deposits and the like, those are being kept internal. Overall, the bank has assets of $1.839 billion, making it the ninth largest bank in Tennessee.
“We basically go into a market to serve,” McDearman said. “We reinvest in local communities, we’re hiring local people, supporting local events and working together like good neighbors do. If we focus on that and (meting) customers’ needs, people respond and it becomes a great partnership.”