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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Bank sticks by plan to shut branch
despite West End pleas;
closing set for Nov. 18

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published October 29, 1988, Page C1

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For the sixth time in three years, Trust Company Bank is closing a branch on metro Atlanta's mostly black Southside.

A week after saying it would reconsider in light of pleas from neighborhood and city leaders, Trust Company announced Friday it would stick to its plan to close its West End branch in southwest Atlanta on Nov. 18.

Southside leaders, who point out that Trust Company has the second largest share of deposit dollars from blacks in metro Atlanta, said they were disappointed.

"This decision tells you what Trust Company is about. Trust Company has never been in partnership with any community, especially when it's a predominantly black community," said Dann Sikes, president of West End Neighborhood Development. "I would appeal to all the depositors on the southwest side to put their money in another bank."

Trust Company officials said the West End branch has lost money since 1981, that it lies outside main West End traffic paths and suffers from competition from six other banks in the area. They reiterated that the decision was based on finances, not race.

"If they get the signal that we are not interested in their business, then I'm very much concerned by that," said Wade T. Mitchell, Trust Company executive vice president. "We are interested in that community and hope that we can serve them from our other branches. Trust Company Bank puts a lot of money back into the community through charitable grants each year, and we're only able to do that if we're able to operate a profitable business."

Community leaders said the branch would make more money if it improved services, increased marketing and made more loans.

"I can't really quarrel with that," Mr. Mitchell said. "The way we make profits is by attracting deposits and making loans. But our feeling was that we had placed good staff in the branch with the resources to do business."

Last week's reconsideration was urged by City Councilman Thomas F. Cuffie, whose 4th District includes the West End. He and neighborhood leaders met with Trust Company officials, showed them a videotape of Trust Company customers and gave them a petition signed by 600 customers.

"They had made their decision before they met with us," Mr. Cuffie said. "A number of people no longer have the faith that the bank is really committed to serving a certain section of the city."

Mr. Mitchell said Trust Company would welcome suggestions for another use of the building at 670 Stewart Avenue S.W. In 1986 it donated its former Ben Hill branch in southwest Atlanta for a United Way community center.

The lending and community service record of Trust Company has been criticized for two years by several Atlanta community groups. The bank's record of closing branches was described in articles on bank lending patterns in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in May.


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Reprinted with permission from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution of these materials without the prior written consent of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, and any copyright holder identified in the material's copyright notice, is prohibited.


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