First Volunteer plans to buy Gateway Bank

One of Chattanooga's biggest community banks plans to expand south of the border by acquiring Gateway Bank & Trust in Ringgold, Ga.

First Volunteer Corp. said it will buy Gateway Bancshares and convert the three Gateway Bank offices to First Volunteer Bank branches by this spring if regulators and shareholders approve the purchase.

Merging the two banks will bring more locations and services for customers of both banks, First Volunteer President Patti Steele said.

"Gateway Bank & Trust is a healthy bank with a strong franchise in a growing market," she said. "We know that people bank with people, and we want Gateway customers to know that the people who are taking care of them today are still going to be taking care of them after this merger."

The acquisition of the 15-year-old Gateway Bank will boost First Volunteer's assets above $900 million and expand its footprint outside Tennessee for the first time.