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Karen E. Segrave | KES PhotoSouthern Bancorp. 2014.

Reviving Farming, Jobs And Communities

Bank Southern Bancorp
Client Hoffinger Industries
Location USA

Phillips County sits in what was once one of the most prosperous parts of America – the Arkansas Delta. Agriculture drove its success but would also be its downfall. The mechanisation of farming techniques made many jobs obsolete over the course of the 20th century. One of the poorest counties in the state now has about 26,000 people, which is half as much it had in the 1950’s. Only about 5,800 people have jobs, down from 7,100 just 10 years ago. Which is the why the potential loss of the county’s largest private employer with nearly 150 employees was so alarming.

Hoffinger Industries, producer of plastic products with a worldwide distribution reach made a name for itself as one of the leading manufacturers of above ground swimming pools. The company was a beacon of hope in a community ravaged by unemployment and a poverty rate above 30 percent. However, the owner’s declining health and questions about succession left the nearly 150 employees worried about their future, which is where Southern Bancorp stepped in to the picture.

Southern Bancorp had been involved in the community for many years before the situation at Hoffinger arose. Over that time, strong ties were built throughout the community, as banking in rural America relies on a close understanding of personal situations and relationships. Some of those relationships were with a group of Hoffinger employees, led by its President. They were rightly concerned about Hoffinger’s future and came to Southern with a request – help them purchase the company.

Southern knew that if Hoffinger was to be sold to anyone else, it would likely be a foreign competitor looking to trade on the company’s name, layoff its workers and sell off its assets, and in the process, devastate the local economy. Southern went to work finding a solution for the potential buyers.

Southern partnered with a local venture capital firm to create a financing package worth $5 million that would allow Hoffinger Industries to remain a thriving part of the Phillips County community – a status that continues today.

Providing access to responsible and responsive access to credit, capital and banking services in rural America requires a greater level of commitment than many banks are providing. In fact, many larger banks have left rural America altogether. Southern believes that these communities – and the families living within them – are a key component to the nation’s future, and therefore we remain committed to ensuring their access to economic mobility and opportunities well into the future.

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