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Gore touts BB&T’s $20 million investment in talk with elected officials and leaders

Revised on: 12.5.2018 at 05:20 p.m.

Posted on: 12.4.2018 at 03:00 p.m.

By Allen Turner

allenturner@nrcolumbus.com

BB&T Senior Vice President Evan Gore briefed elected officials and county leaders on his bank’s upcoming $20 million local investment during a meeting last week of the Columbus County Intergovernmental Council.

Membership in the Intergovernmental Council is open to anyone who is interested in good government in Columbus County, but regular attendees include representatives of municipalities, the county government, local school systems and Southeastern Community College. The quarterly meeting was held last Monday at the Ritz Center in Tabor City. 

Gore told the group he was wearing two hats as he discussed BB&T’s plans here: as a bank spokesman and as a Columbus County native who sees the impact the bank’s plans will have on the county.

“It’s a great thing for Columbus County,” Gore said. “I don’t think people realize it, but the eighth largest financial institution in the nation is investing $20 million right here in Columbus County.”

With the exception of branch banks, BB&T will consolidate all of its local operations into a single 100,000 square foot building in the block bounded by Lee Street, West Columbus Street, Powell Boulevard and Phillips Street in Whiteville.

There’s not yet a projected timeframe for completion of the project, which is still in the planning and permitting stages.

Gore said many of BB&T’s important bank-wide support functions are centered in Whiteville. “If someone calls in to one of our 800 numbers, they’ll probably be talking to someone in Whiteville,” he said. “If they’re having a problem with online banking, there’s a good chance they’ll go into the Whiteville client care center when they call. If they’re in Jacksonville, Fla., or anywhere else in the bank’s footprint, and they get a loan, those loan documents come into Whiteville where they’re scanned and then stored in a vault here.” BB&T’s accounts payable department is headquartered in Whiteville, as are other computer-based services and the collections center for the Regional Acceptance subsidiary.

“The buildings we’re in now,” eight or nine of them in Whiteville, “were built when we were the corporate headquarters for UCB,” Gore said, “and things are kind of broken up now because departments are on different floors and in some cases in different buildings. We had the best of technology years ago, but our technology needs updating now. This consolidation brings everybody together under one roof in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility.”

While the new facility won’t result in the creation of more jobs in the county, Gore said that it represents a “big boost in confidence” for the bank’s local employees. “It will position us well, because in our industry you either change the way you’re doing business, or business leaves you. We’re a bank with a strong brick-and-mortar delivery system that was created over the years with the merger of a lot of community banks and thrifts. We’re not abandoning the brick-and-mortar branch structure, but the consumer has demanded that they be able to do their banking over the phone and on their computer. We’re providing that, but we still will have our branches, the best in class, by the way, and if somebody gets stuck on the technology, they will be able to see someone in person who can help them solve their problem.”

Gore announced further BB&T investment in the local community, saying that BB&T will donate $1 million to be split among Southeastern, Bladen, Sampson and Robeson Community colleges to develop a curriculum that will provide potential employees the bank would like to hire with the same technical and “soft” skills that both the bank and other employers require in today’s climate. “With these curriculum investments, we’ll know that, if someone comes to us with a resume from one of these schools, they’ll have the skills we’re looking for.”

The Nakina native said he feels optimistic, not just as a spokesman for the bank but also as a home-grown product of Columbus County. “We’ve all seen the changes since tobacco, textiles and furniture were kings,” he said. “We’ve had struggles as the world changed on us. But we’re at the point now where we might look back and see today, now, as the time where we turned the corner. We hope our contribution to education will assist in that. Columbus County already is great, and I think it’s going to get greater. Our results already are good, especially when compared with some other rural areas. We’ve also got 74. One exit ramp at a time, it’s becoming an interstate highway. Other DOT projects are enhancing our transportation system here and, rail has come back to Columbus County.”

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