First Bancshares, Inc., holding company for First National Bank of Bellevue and sole owner of First Bellevue Properties, held its annual Shareholder Meeting recently and re-elected tenured board member Adam L. Crockett, co-owner of Green Hills Golf Course & Inn, Inc. Newly elected to the board for terms expiring in 2024 were Kula Hoty-Lynch, Corporate Legal Counsel – Hoty Enterprises; and Jerri Miller, Sandusky County Auditor.
James V. Stouffer, Jr., President/CEO of Catawba Island Club, was elected as the Chairman of First Bancshares, Inc. and Melvin H. Miller, Retired President/Chairman of Janotta & Herner, Inc. was elected Vice-Chairmen of the Board.
First National Bank, a community bank with eight banking offices located in Bellevue, Catawba, Clyde, Fremont, Perkins, Port Clinton, Put-In-Bay and Sandusky, is the primary operating company of First Bancshares. First Bancshares, Inc. is also the sole shareholder of First Bellevue Properties, a real estate and other asset holding subsidiary.
The bank reported that 2020 was a solid year in spite of the impact of the pandemic and interest rates falling to record lows and the company absorbing overhead costs of a new branch opening in mid-year.
Net interest income rose in 2020 by more than 5% while the Federal Reserve took short term rates to almost zero in March. While the balance sheet is aligned to see better margins when rates increase, management was able to make the necessary adjustments and still grow net interest income.
Non-interest income increased by 39% over the prior year mainly driven by revenue from mortgage loan sales. This continues to be very active as residential refinancing continues to be strong along with new home purchase loans.
The bank opened its new Perkins office in August and brought staff on board in July to prepare for this. In spite of the added overhead, FNB was able to manage this non-interest expense and only reported less than a 2% increase from the prior year. The bottom-line net earnings will be a record year for the bank as it increased over 12% from 2019 calendar year. In relation to per share data, the solid year reflects very positively in providing a good return to the value of the stock.
The balance sheet has seen large growth mainly through an influx of deposits from PPP loans and companies increasing their liquidity during the pandemic. While the bank expected some growth as their branch expansions gain traction in the new markets, there is uncertainty how long these may stay once the economy improves.
The bank recognized two tenured board members for their dedicated service on the board: Sharon L. Barnes, Vice President with Barnes Nursery and John E. Coppeler, Attorney of Law – Flynn Py & Kruse.
Sharon Barnes was recognized for her 12 years of dedicated service as a board member of First Bancshares and First National Bank. Barnes joined the board in November 2008, the bank had total assets of almost $105 million, operating five full-service offices through our market area. Now, as she retires, the company has grown to total assets in excess of $283 million, operating out of three additional full-service locations.
John Coppeler was recognized for his 30 years of dedicated service as a board member of First Bancshares and First National Bank. As a member of the boards, Coppeler has played an integral part in guiding the company from $64 million in total assets to its current size of over $283 million. When he came on the board, the bank was operating three full-service offices, and now in August 2020, the eighth office was opened to serve the Perkins community. He and his wife, Ellen, reside on Catawba Island.
Additional First Bancshares Board of Directors consists of Steven L. Mays, DVM, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine; Duffield E. Milkie, Vice President/General Counsel – Cedar Fair L.P.; Dean J. Miller, President/CEO – First Bancshares, Inc.; Michael K. Winthrop, President/CEO – The Bellevue Hospital; and Gordon A. Gibbs, Director Emeritus.