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United buys McIntosh bank building
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United Bank has purchased the 16,684-square foot McIntosh Commercial Bank building on U.S. Highway 278 for $2.25 million.

CEO Jim Edwards said Tuesday afternoon that purchasing the building, which has safe deposit boxes and a drive-through, will position the bank for strong growth. United is the fourth-largest bank in Newton County and has 10 percent of the county’s total deposits, which were valued at $661 million by the FDIC as of July 2010.

"We’ve been open in Covington for almost four years, and we found it to be a very successful market, one of our fastest growing," Edwards said.

Edwards said it was cheaper to purchase the McIntosh building than to construct a new building, considering United paid about 30 cents on the dollar. McIntosh failed in March 2010.

"One of our concerns, it’s not exactly the style we’re used to; we usually go for smaller, more modest buildings," Edwards said. "We were also worried that if the building was not purchased, what would that area look like. In a few years if it wasn’t purchased, it would become an albatross."

The United branch in Newton Plaza will be moved to the McIntosh location during the next two to three months. The bank will occupy the first floor of the building and the second floor will be rented out to other businesses, Edwards said. United also has locations in Covington on Washington Street and in Walmart.

While many other Georgia banks have struggled or failed since the housing market collapsed, United has used the recession to acquire assets for pennies on the dollar. The bank purchased the assets of First Georgia Community Bank in 2009, First Coweta Bank in 2009 and First National Bank in 2010. United Bank has 23 banking locations in 11 counties around metro Atlanta and a combined $1 billion in assets, $110 million in capital and employs more than 350 people.

"We are not historically a rapidly growing company, we've been steady. But in the right markets, we've continue to expand in a thoughtful mode. With the downturn we saw opportunities," Edwards said. "Long term, we see Covington and Newton County as one of our most important locations. We really didn't have the facilities, long term, to be able to serve as much of that market as feel like we would need to. This facility will give us room to grow for years."

The bank could expand to the second floor of the building, and it has excess land around the building, but Edwards said he didn't expect the bank to need that space for many years.

"When Atlanta starts growing again, it will grow out I-75 and 20 and 85. That's where our markets are," Edwards said. "There will be better times ahead and now is the time to position ourselves."