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Small banks turn to new areas for growth
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Still dealing with weak loan demand and a rough economic recovery, some Georgia community banks that weathered the crisis are getting bolder in their search for new business.

Some banks are turning to lines of business offered more often by their big bank competitors such as wealth management, corporate banking or mortgage lending, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. A few are even opening or considering new branches, bucking the industry trend.

The moves are byproducts of a tough economy and a need to diversify revenue streams following the turmoil in residential and commercial real estate development lending. Development loans were a key cog in the business plans of many community banks before the crisis.

But slow economic growth has made replacing expiring loans with new ones more difficult.

"They've got to put their money in other places," said Ed Snow, an attorney and chairman of the banking and real estate practice at Burr & Forman in Atlanta.

The general rule for the industry over the past four or five years has been to downsize, cut costs, close branches and shed loans that soured when the economy turned.

But some banks are beginning to target new areas for revenue.

Community & Southern Bank announced this month it is starting a new wealth management division that will open next year. The division will serve well-to-do individuals.

Community & Southern and Atlanta-based Georgia Commerce Bank are among the institutions that have applied with state regulators for permission to open new branches.