Five BancorpSouth branches in region listed among closings

TUPELO – Houlka Mayor Jo Higginbotham didn’t need to see the official list of branch closings BancorpSouth released on Tuesday.
She had already heard that her town’s lone bank was among the 23 set to close later this year.
“As far as I know, we weren’t given a chance to rebut anything,” she said. “From what I understand, you can pull statistics all day long, and the numbers aren’t there.”
Indeed, BancorpSouth officials, in announcing their “branch optimization plan” last week, said that the closings were targeted at branches that didn’t meet volume, profit and growth expectations. Many of the branches are smaller offices located in rural areas.
Eight of the closings are in Mississippi, with five in Northeast Mississippi – Houlka, Ecru, Hamilton and two in Tupelo.
Higginbotham said her town of about 700 people and its businesses depend on the bank and don’t want to see it closed.
“I always call them the Bank of Mississippi,” she said, referring to the Tupelo-based bank’s name from 1966 to 1999. “It’s the only bank I’ve ever known. There’s been a bank in Houlka as long as I can remember.”
The Houlka branch opened in 1930.
Ecru’s branch opened in 1949. Hamilton’s branch was established in 1976. In Tupelo, the Harrisburg branch, across from the Link Centre on West Main Street, opened in 1968. The small commercial banking office inside The Mall at Barnes Crossing opened in 1990.
Adam Sudduth isn’t too happy about the closing of the Harrisburg branch, where he goes every other week.
“The irony of my favorite branch is that it was not busy when I wanted to do banking,” he said. “There were occasional busy times when I tried to bank, but every location would be busy at the time.
“I will probably start using the Coley branch when my branch closes. I hope that it does not become too busy that they lose customers over how busy the branch becomes.”
Higginbotham said she’ll do what she can to keep the Houlka branch open.
“We do all our business with that bank,” said Higginbotham. “I don’t know what the community will do. It really affects those businesses here that make daily deposits.”
BancorpSouth said the list was compiled after a nine-month study. The targeted closings represent $36 million in loans and total deposits of $239 million.
The Mississippi branches represent more than $84 million in deposits, including about $76 million in the five Northeast Mississippi locations.
Other than their remarks made during last week’s announcement, bank officials declined to comment further on the closings.
On its website Tuesday, the bank said, “There will not be any changes to customers’ accounts, and they will continue to work as they do today.”
The closures are expected to begin in August and will save BancorpSouth about $4.4 million annually once the process is complete.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, a group of leaders from Ecru was scheduled to meet with BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Aubrey Patterson to talk about that branch’s closure.
Alderwoman Ivonne Whitehead was expected to present a petition to Patterson asking the bank to reconsider its decision.
Chickasaw Journal General Manager Floyd Ingram contributed to this report. Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal