Gateway agrees to sell to Chattanooga's First Volunteer Bank & Trust

Gateway agrees to sell to Chattanooga's First Volunteer Bank & Trust

February 24th, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

RINGGOLD, Ga. - Shareholders of Gateway Bancshares Inc. voted Thursday to sell their 15-year-old bank to the parent company of Chattanooga's First Volunteer Bank & Trust.

Pending regulatory approval expected within six weeks, First Volunteer Corp. plans to convert the Gateway's three North Georgia offices into branches of First Volunteer later this year. The purchase will give First Volunteer the second-biggest banking presence in Catoosa County, behind only Northwest Georgia Bank, and boost the assets of First Volunteer to more than $900 million at 25 branches across East and Middle Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.

"This gives us a great market in North Georgia to grow in and should offer more convenient and wider service for both our customers who are already in North Georgia and the Gateway customers who come to Chattanooga," said Patti Steele, president of First Volunteer.

Steele said First Volunteer will continue to operate the Gateway offices in Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and LaFayette, Ga., although some cuts in Gateway's 70-employee staff are expected.

"We will work very hard to minimize the job losses," Steele said.

Terms of the sale between the two privately held banks were not disclosed. But Steele said the deal "is a very fair and clean purchase" and she said she expects federal and state regulators to approve the sale.

Robert Peck, the chairman of Gateway Bancshares who helped organize Gateway Bank & Trust in 1997, said through the merger, "we are combining talented bankers, and creating a more diversified mix of consumer and commercial deposit and lending offerings."