Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Independence Banks ranks number 2 in nation among community banks

Independence Bancshares Inc. has grabbed the No. 2 spot in a leading financial intelligence provider’s ranking of the best-performing community banks in the country with between $500 million and $5 billion in assets.

Texas-based Westar Bank Holding Co. Inc. was No. 1 in the national rankings.

Independence, with $1.012 billion in assets, did not significantly out-perform the top 100 banks in any one category used for the analysis, but it scored well enough across the board to lock in second place.

That assessment came from SNL Financial, which provides information and analysis for banks, financial, insurance, real estate, energy and media/communications companies.

“That means there was nothing extreme in any one area,” Independence President Darrell Higginbotham said. “We performed well enough in all categories to earn that second ranking.”

Of the 760 community banks that fit SNL’s criteria for the rankings, none has more than 60 offices.

If consolidated information was reported, the bank was ranked at the holding company level. Otherwise, SNL used commercial bank subsidiary data.

Higginbotham said another major takeaway from the No. 2 ranking is that it’s an asset for the community to have a nationally-ranked bank with the strength and stability to meet the region’s financial needs.

Here is Independence’s performance in the six areas that were ranked: 1.89 percent in return on average tangible assets before tax; .11 percent in net charge-offs as a percent of average loans; .46 percent adjusted nonperforming loans as a percent of total loans; 54.46 percent operating expenses as a percent of operating revenue; 4.37 percent net interest margin; 9.02 percent loan growth rate.

Higginbotham and CEO Chris Reid attribute the company’s success to its quality employees.

“We also think that it’s a validation of our strategies, of how we provide community bank services, and that communities are responding to how we do business,” Higginbotham said.

Northern Bancorp Inc. of Woburn, Mass. kept its net charge-offs to almost zero (.01 percent) to make it into the third slot.

Kentucky placed seven of its 22 banks eligible for this analysis in the top 100.

Independence Bank’s roots are in McLean County where Farmers & Merchants Bank opened in 1909. The modern-day history, however, began in 1971 when Charles A. Reid and Maurice E. Reisz purchased that bank and Providence State Bank in Webster County.

Soon after, current CEO Chris Reid joined his father and uncle and assumed a leadership role in the banks. In 1997, the two small banks were incorporated under one name, Independence Bank.

The bank has grown fast with offices now in Henderson and Owensboro, Sebree, Beech Grove, Hawesville, Lewisport, Bowling Green and Paducah.

The banks now employ more than 250 people.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299,

Community Campus receives grant funding

Community Campus has received two grants totaling $125,000 to fund and help expand the campus’ biomedical and energy technology academies that will enroll students in the fall and next year.

An experimental partnership between local school districts, colleges and businesses, Community Campus is tasked with finding new ways to educate students. The goal is to better prepare students for college or the job market by teaching them real-world situations and applications of their lessons.

These grants are both funded by the national education initiative Project Lead the Way, according to a release from Daviess County Public Schools, one of the key partners in Community Campus.

Marcia Carpenter, DCPS College and Career Readiness Coordinator, said Project Lead the Way is an education initiative based on improving education, just as Community Campus is.

“Project Lead the Way, what makes it unique is that it is relevant, the learning that students do is meaningful and everything is related to a real-world situation. Students are hungry for relevance,” Carpenter said. “I think the fact that we received the grant is an acknowledgement of the faith they have in what is being done in this area.”

The first grant, $50,000, will go to the Life Sciences Academy that is due to enroll students for the 2012-13 school year. The funds will be used to implement a four-class course of study under the academy.

“The Life Science Academy will start for the 2012-13 school year and this grant provides the start-up money for the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Program, which will be the anchor for that academy,” Carpenter said. “It’s all learning by doing. All of the projects are based on simulations of real-life situations ... “It (the grant) also directly meets the needs that have been identified in our community for a growing health care community.”

The second grant, worth $75,000, will go to fund the Construction, Energy and Trades Academy and create an integrated pipeline course that will help middle school students interested in energy-related fields get on track to that academy.

“The energy-technology side starts with middle school. It’s a pipeline program that will lead into high school for an awareness on the kind of energy that we are using, the kinds of energy we’ll be using in the future and the consequences of energy use, such as pollution control,” Carpenter said.

Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said the grant funding is a big boost to Community Campus.

“I think it’ll definitely help us move Community Campus and our academies forward,” Shelton said. “This really builds the foundation for us in each of these programs.”

Shelton added that because of the cooperative nature of Community Campus, this money goes to help more than just one school system.

“It’ll benefit not only our district, but students from other surrounding school districts as well,” Shelton said. “These grants allow us also to have further conversations about how to structure programs for the future and continue to expand opportunities for students that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Dariush Shafa, 691-7302,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Daviess property values rise by $95 million

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Sunday, April 3, 2011 12:28 AM CDT
After dropping $4 million in 2009, the value of Owensboro property jumped $95 million in 2010 to a total of $4.64 billion, Sandy Dawdy, Daviess County property valuation administrator, said recently.

That comes at a time when Zillow Real Estate Market Reports estimates that retail property alone in the United States lost $1.7 trillion of its value in 2010.

In Daviess County, Dawdy said, the value of residential property rose $58 million; commercial property, $30.1 million; and farmland, $6.5 million.

In 2009, residential assessments grew by $18 million to $3.15 billion and farm assessments by $5 million to $312 million.

But commercial property values dropped by $27 million to $1.2 billion.

Dawdy said the loss of the Executive Inn Rivermont removed $5 million from commercial rolls in 2009 and several commercial properties sold for less than their assessed values.

She couldn't pinpoint exactly why the commercial market rebounded in 2010.

But Bo Barron, managing director of Sperry Van Ness/The Barron Group and that company's local asset recovery representative in western Kentucky, said what's happening in Owensboro is part of a national trend.

In 2007, commercial property sales across the country totaled $500 billion, he said.

That dropped to $150 billion in 2008 and $50 billion in 2009 before rebounding to $100 billion last year.

"That felt great," Barron said. "The first half of last year was so slow, we might as well have been on vacation. But the second half turned around and made 2010 the best year I've ever had."

Investors are wanting to buy again, he said.

"We had multiple offers on a piece of commercial property last week," Barron said. "That never happens in Owensboro."

The slowdown in homebuilding, he said, has created a tight market for apartment rentals and investors are wanting rental property again.

"There's still a glut of good retail space," Barron said. "But national retailers should be ready to engage again in the second half of the year."

"Property is just selling for more," Dawdy said. "We haven't raised assessments that much."

For residential property, the increase is partly because more houses were built in 2010 and partly because home sales were also up.

The Owensboro Metropolitan Planning Commission issued permits last year for 292 single-family homes valued at $25.3 million along with 93 apartment units valued at $3.44 million and two duplexes valued at $220,592.

That's a total of $28.96 million.

In 2009, the planning commission reported permits for 282 single-family homes worth $22.29 million.

Planning commission records show 44 commercial projects valued at $62.4 million last year, up from $42.27 million in 2009.

But some of that -- such as the new hospital and riverfront construction -- is from governmental or other nonprofit agencies and won't go on the tax rolls.

Jim DeMaio, president of the Greater Owensboro Realtor Association, said, "2010 was an outstanding year."

During the year, he said, home sales were up 2.5 percent to 931.

The median price of homes sold was up 6.1 percent to $112,000.

And total home sales were up 6.2 percent to $119.5 million.

"2006 was the height of the market," DeMaio said. "I don't want to say we were ever in a bad market in Owensboro. They weren't horrible years, but they weren't as good as the first half of the decade. But 2010 gives us a very positive outlook. The gloom and doom of the national market hasn't affected Owensboro."

DeMaio said while the Owensboro economy has seen layoffs and business closings, its main employers -- Owensboro Medical Health System, the two public school systems and U.S. Bank Home Mortgage -- either expanded or held steady during the recession.

The increase in property values means more money for schools and governments that depend on the property tax for a large portion of their revenues.

Twenty-five percent of Daviess Fiscal Court's budget comes from taxes on real property, as does 20.75 percent of Owensboro's.

For Daviess Fiscal Court, the increase in values will mean an extra $129,000 this year, according to Jim Hendrix, Daviess County treasurer.

Jim Tony Fulkerson, the city's finance director, said the city had $23.4 million worth of new property in 2010 and $20.1 million worth of increased value of existing property for a total increase of $43.5 million.

Taxes on that increase will generate $112,715, he said.

The increases are good news for Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, who is busy preparing his first budget for the county.

"We're going to have to supplement the jail more than we did last year, so we can use it," Mattingly said. "It surprises me though. I didn't realize property values would be up that much. I thought things were still pretty slow."

Most of the increases, Dawdy said, were in higher sales of property and new construction.

About 5,000 properties saw increases in their assessments last year, she said.

But roughly the same number saw increases in 2009, Dawdy said.

"It has to be higher sales prices on property," she said.

But last year's growth -- roughly 2 percent -- was still well below the 2008 growth rate of 5.49 percent.

Pedicabs coming to downtown

Published: Sunday, April 3, 2011 12:02 AM CDT
While some entrepreneurs may be waiting before investing in a soon-to-be revitalized downtown Owensboro, Patricia McKeegan is taking the plunge now. But her venture won't be a restaurant or retail shop.

Transportation will be McKeegan's game.

Before the end of April, McKeegan will be the proud owner of a pair of pedicabs -- tricycle pedestrian taxis that she plans to put into operation on downtown streets this summer.

McKeegan, a Long Island, N.Y., transplant to Owensboro a few years ago, is a bicycling advocate, so starting a business that features pedal-operated people movers shouldn't come as a surprise.

She bought the pedicabs from Main Street Pedicabs, a Denver company that makes and sells several styles of the 21-speed tricycles that can carry up to three people in a passenger compartment mounted over the back wheels.

A solo rider sits up front on a standard bicycle seat and supplies the pedal power.

The pedicabs McKeegan chose cost $3,800 apiece, are 110 inches long, 50 inches wide and weigh 185 pounds.

McKeegan plans to rent them to independent driver-operators, who will provide rides to people on weekends and special occasions, while relying on tips for revenue.

McKeegan hopes to be in business by May.

"I'm very excited about downtown Owensboro," McKeegan said. "It is the best thing happening."

It will be next year before Smothers Park reopens and 2013 before the downtown convention center and Hampton Inn & Suites hotel open, but McKeegan is ready for Owensboro Pedicab to get started.

She is advertising for part-time rider operators to work four eight-hour shifts or more a month.

McKeegan said the pedicabs will circulate throughout the downtown area, picking up and dropping off fares.

Rider-operators will be required to undergo three hours of training, be at least 18 years old and able to pedal and operate a pedicab.

"I feel this is a good year for my experiment," she said. "I think it will be fun."