by Nia Watson
Carolina Bank and Florence city officials celebrated the grand opening Thursday afternoon of the new $4.5 million branch and headquarters in downtown Florence.
“Our family had a vision to move to Florence and here we are today enjoying the moment,” said Carolina Bank CEO Rick Beasley.
Beasley said the business started with his grandfather opening up a small bank in Lamar in 1936. Currently, the company has 12 locations in six counties with the latest and biggest branch in the hub of the Pee Dee.
“City of Florence has been great. They’ve opened their arms for us.” Beasley said.
Brian Falcone, the bank’s senior loan officer, said after seeing the growth in Florence, they decided to relocate from Darlington and renovate the three-story building into their new home.
However, their presence in Florence isn’t new. There’s also a branch on West Palmetto Street. Falcone said 70 percent of Carolina Bank’s loans are in the city.
“The Waters building, Kress corner, so we’ve been kind of instrumental in doing a lot of lending in this area so we kind of felt like it was time for us to move to downtown,” Falcone said.
Mayor Pro Tem Frank Brand said the steady development is a result of government and the private sector working together.
While the bank is the latest business to open up, another one is in the works on North Dargan Street.
The Lost Cajun Seafood and Gumbo restaurant with a rooftop bar received approval from the city’s design review board Wednesday afternoon. The business still has to submit plans to the building department.
Brand said the goal of is to get young people to the community.
“The young people that is what is driving this whole thing to get young people that have gone off to universities and work in Charlotte or Charleston. We want then back here, we want them in Florence,” Brand said. “If we can do it in Florence it’s just the more opportunity for them to come back and Florence is not an expensive place to live compared to these other cities.”
At the rate of this progress, Brand said it won’t be long until the vision becomes reality.
“The last five years it’s going to be multiplied over again as Florence continues to march forward, getting better, bigger and just more alternatives for people to do things in our community,” Brand said.
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