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Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - First Bank of Dalton located at the corner of Hamilton and King Streets.

Two of the biggest community banks in the Chattanooga region are planning to combine later this year and adopt a new name under a merger plan endorsed by directors of both banks Thursday.

First Volunteer Corp. in Chattanooga has agreed to buy the parent company of First Bank in Dalton, Georgia, the last remaining locally owned community bank in Whitfield County.

The proposed purchase, which is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, is the latest among a half dozen similar bank acquisitions First Volunteer has made over the past two decades, including its most recent purchase of the former Gateway Bank & Trust in Ringgold, Georgia in 2012.

Terms of the purchase were not dislosed by the two privately held companies.

First Bank in Dalton was started in 1996 and has grown to more than $489 million in assets with six branch offices in Whitfield and Murray counties. First Volunteer, which has been headquartered in Chattanooga under the First Volunteer name since 1999, has grown to nearly $1.3 billion in assets with 24 offices in Tennessee and Georgia.

"This transaction enables us to join forces with a strong and trusted bank that has long been a friendly competitor," Mitch Sanford, the president and CEO of First Bank in Dalton, said in an announcement of the merger Thursday night. . "The shared community banking philosophy of the two banks is at the center of this combination."

Banks at a glance

First Bank in Dalton

Parent company: FBH Holding

Headquarters: Dalton

Assets: $489.1 million

2020 net income: $6.2 million

Staff: 79 employees

History: Established in January 1996

Locations: Five offices in Whitfield County and one in Gordon county

CEO: Mitch Sanford

First Volunteer Bank

Parent company: First Volunteer Corp.

Headquarters: Chattanooga

Assets: $1.3 billion

2020 net income: $10.1 million

Staff: 236

History: Established as Marin Trust and Banking Co. in 1904 and became Volunter Bank & Trust in 1999

Locations: 24 offices in East Tennessee and North Georgia.

CEO: Patti Steele

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., reports as of March 31, 2021.

Sanford said the combination of the two banks will create synergies to help improve customer services, including the addition of eight First Volunteer office in Catoosa, Walker and Hamilton counties.

"We are very excited to have this opportunity to work together to better serve our customers and this community at an even higher level," he said.

Patti Steele, president and CEO of First Volunteer, said First Bank is a community-focused bank "with a strong franchise in a growing market" in Northwest Georgia.

"In the coming months, together we will finalize and unveil a new name as well as a branding strategy for our companies," Steele said. "This new name will embody the customer and community-focused philosophies for which both banks are known and will take us forward for many years."

Alston & Bird LLP served as legal counsel to First Volunteer while Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP served as legal counsel to FBD Holding Company in the merger talks.

ProBank Austin delivered a fairness opinion to the Board of Directors of FBD Holding Company, Inc.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340

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