Six Mile losing bank

Rocky Nimmons/Courier The First Citizens Bank on Main Street in Six Mile will be closing its doors for good on April 26.

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
The First Citizens Bank on Main Street in Six Mile will be closing its doors for good on April 26.

By Nicole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

SIX MILE — The town of Six Mile has been home to a bank for more than 90 years.

That could be about to change.

First Citizens, which has operated on the town’s Main Street for two decades, recently announced that it will be permanently closing the doors of its Six Mile branch on April 26, consolidating operations with the bank’s Liberty branch.

“The experienced, friendly staff at our Liberty branch looks forward to serving you after that date,” First Citizens Market Executive Charles Perry said in a letter to Six Mile customers.

Town Clerk Rita Martin said the impending loss of the financial institution has been devastating on many levels, as the town has had a bank since 1918.

“We have a lot of older residents who know the bank schedule by heart and depend on it for their banking needs,” Martin said. “Now they are going to have to travel 10 miles to the nearest First Citizens, and this is difficult for many of them.”

Angela English, First Citizens’ Corporate Communications Director for South Carolina, said the institution continuously evaluates its branches, using deliberate and methodical criteria, to make decisions that are the most effective and profitable for First Citizens branches.

“First Citizens remains committed to providing excellent service to the residents of Six Mile as the branch combines with the one in Liberty,” said English. “First Citizens Bank has more branch locations throughout the state of South Carolina than any other banking corporation. We have proudly served the citizens in Six Mile for the last 20 years and will continue to serve them at any of our nearby locations in Liberty, Central, Clemson and Seneca.”

The two bank-teller staff at Six Mile’s First Citizens Bank has allowed people and businesses in the community to develop personal relationships that will be lost along with the bank itself. Residents have even signed a petition at town hall to try to keep a bank in the town.

“When people have come in here to sign the petition to keep the bank, they mention the fact that they are going to miss the ladies who work there,” said Martin.

Local businesses and prospective businesses will also feel the detrimental impact of not having a bank in town.

Six Mile town councilman James Atkinson says that he appreciates that First Citizens has served the community for the last 20 years and understands that the decision to close was an entirely prudent business decision made by the financial corporation.

“Banks typically have to make business decisions. They have to go through a process, and they did,” said Atkinson. “They met with our local government and they forewarned us. We appreciate this.”

Despite the fact that First Citizens did things by the book, the sting of the bank’s loss remains.

“We are working on building a Farmer’s Market to bring people into Six Mile,” said Atkinson. “Local businesses and churches depend on the bank to make deposits and to get change. Now they are going to have to go at least 10 miles to meet this need. It is difficult to bring in new, prospective businesses without a bank in the area to depend on for financial transactions.”

There is no disputing that Six Mile — which had a population of 675 at the time of the 2010 census — is a small town, but Martin said First Citizens leaving is a “big loss for our little town.”

Six Mile Mayor Roy Stoddard and town council are working on a Plan B — utilizing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) — in an attempt to turn the loss of First Citizens into a win for Six Mile and an opportuinity for another bank willing to relocate.

“Banks earn CRAs, and they are graded for them,” Atkinson said. “Our hope is that First Citizens will ‘donate’ the physical facility to Six Mile, which could earn them a CRA. Then, another bank could come into Six Mile and earn a CRA for opening up in an un-serviced area.

“Sometimes you have to be a little creative and imaginative to make things work.  That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Residents, churches and businesses in Six Mile will be able to bank with First Citizens until the branch’s closing on Friday, April 26. In the meantime, the town’s elected officials are working on a plan to find another bank that will be interested in relocating to meet Six Mile’s financial needs.