First Citrus Bank picks downtown St. Pete site for first Pinellas office

First Citrus Bank expects to open a full-service office in downtown St. Petersburg in June.

The bank will open a branch, executive offices and a drive-thru at the new site, at 300 1st Ave. S.

First Citrus, a $600 million commercial bank, is headquartered in Tampa. The bank initially expanded into St. Petersburg two years ago, when it hired Leslie Bridges, a veteran Pinellas County banker, as senior vice president of business banking. Bridges has been working out of a loan production office on 1st Avenue North.

Since then, the bank has deepened its community ties through partnerships with the St. Pete Greenhouse and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re beyond excited to be deepening our commitment in the ‘Burg! We have spirited leadership in Leslie Bridges and Brett Dulaney, who have a combined 31 years of experience in Pinellas County,” Jack Barrett, First Citrus CEO, said in a statement.

“The First Citrus brand is unlike any other in the market, in part because for over 20 years, we have loaned more of our deposits throughout Tampa Bay than any other bank. Ninety-eight cents of every deposit dollar goes right back into the communities we serve in the form of commercial loans, like the ones our St. Pete bankers will continue to provide in supporting local businesses,” Barrett said.

PPP loans
First Citrus is the second bank in a week to announce a downtown St. Petersburg office.

Flagship Bank, based in Clearwater, will open at 965 Central Ave. by the end of this month.

Other Tampa-based banks, including Pilot Bank and Bank of Tampa, also have expanded into St. Petersburg in recent years.

The new offices come amid a downturn in the number of branches both nationally and locally, amid industry consolidation. Technology, including online and mobile banking, means fewer people walk into a branch. But both depositors and small businesses continue to value local bank branches, according to a 2018 report from the Federal Reserve.

Older and wealthier households are more likely to visit a branch office, the report said. In addition, respondents to a Fed survey said location of an institution’s offices is the most important reason for choosing their financial institution.Leslie Bridges, senior vice president, business banking, First Citrus Bank

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many local banks also have gained assets and boosted earnings from the Paycheck Protection Program. First Citrus had a record-breaking year in 2020, after making 1,277 PPP loans totaling $110 million.

“The pandemic has had a deep impact on our community in many ways,” Bridges said in a statement. “We are proud to support local businesses, advocating for them to obtain Paycheck Protection Loans, and remain financially secure, so they can continue to provide their invaluable resources, jobs, and cultural impact here in the St. Pete and Tampa areas. Our expansion into the ‘Burg with a full-service branch allows us the opportunity to lift up more businesses and families, and it is our honor and privilege to do so.”

The new First Citrus Bank location previously housed an office for SunTrust, which merged with BB&T to form Truist Bank in December 2019.

First Citrus Bank, part of First Citrus Bancorporation (OTC: FCIT), was ranked as one of the Top 100 Community Banks in 2020 by American Banker and named Top 5 SBA Lender in Tampa Bay for 2020 by the Small Business Administration.

Click here to view original article in the St. Pete Catalyst

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