Six Mile accepts award from state municipal association

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

Six Mile Town Council member James Atkinson is pictured with the award the town was recently presented by the South Carolina Municipal Association for its efforts in securing Our Bank.

Six Mile Town Council member James Atkinson is pictured with the award the town was recently presented by the South Carolina Municipal Association for its efforts in securing Our Bank.

SIX MILE — Six Mile’s banking saga had all the makings of a Hollywood movie.

[cointent_lockedcontent]First, Six Mile had a bank for 94 years before its latest downtown bank decided to close in 2013. Then, finding itself without a bank for the first time since 1919, a group of town officials led the charge to what ultimately resulted in the grand opening of Our Bank the following year.

Finally, the town was recognized by a statewide organization for its efforts in what could be categorized as a happily-ever-after ending.
After experiencing the first two scenarios over a year that culminated with Our Bank’s opening in 2014, the Municipal Association of South Carolina recognized the town’s ability to secure a new bank by presenting an award to Six Mile last month.
The award, which the town won in the 1-1,000 population category, had a total of 29 cities and towns submitting projects and initiatives for consideration.

“Six Mile was the smallest of the award winners, representing but one of nine towns in South Carolina to achieve MASC Achievement Awards for 2015,” said Six Mile Town Council member James Atkinson, a banking official whose expertise helped secure Our Bank. “This is truly a unique venture and the way government should work — the public and private sector, as well as citizens, coming together for the good of all. How much more could be accomplished if the same spirit of cooperation seen in this project could be replicated?”

Atkinson, accepting the award when it was formally presented at a town council meeting earlier this week, praised First Citizens, the previous bank, for doing the right thing for the local community by donating the property to the town if the town could find a bank to occupy the site within six months.

After convincing the outgoing bank to deed the property in exchange for a potential Community Reinvestment Act credit, officials then worked with a regional bankers association to identify an institution to open a branch in Six Mile.

The incoming bank could also receive Community Reinvestment Act credit for opening in a community without a bank and bear no capital expenditures to relocate.

Once an agreement with Our Bank was secured, additional residents volunteered to assist in gutting the existing building to reduce renovation costs. The complete renovation combined state-of-the-art technology into early 20th-century décor that represented the time of the original 1919 Bank of Six Mile and the retaining of a brick-and-mortar bank in its downtown.

The thing Atkinson said made the project even more noteworthy is all of these things were accomplished “without any financial outlay whatsoever on the part of the town.”

“Our citizens got personally involved not only in meetings to discuss the need and desire for a bank, but in an actual gutting of the old bank as a means of assisting the incoming bank with renovation costs,” Atkinson said. “Once the bank is profitable, a percentage of bank earnings will become a revenue line item for the time. Where else in the country can you find such a unique project as was the Our Bank project in Six Mile — again without one single dollar of cost to the town? Where else could a business entity find citizens willing to pick up hammers and gut a building to have a bank, but Six Mile?”
Atkinson, who also welcomed new Carolina Premier Bank president David Barksdale at Tuesday’s council meeting, said bankers must understand the need small towns have for a bank, while citizens must also realize the need to support their local bank.

Six Mile mayor Roy C. Stoddard, who also worked tirelessly with Atkinson to secure Our Bank, said he was surprised when first informed the town had been selected for the municipal association award. But, like Atkinson, Stoddard said the award would not have been possible without the total effort of the community.
“The community understood what a bank means to a small town, as did councilman Atkinson, who spearheaded the effort to find a bank willing to set up shop in Six Mile,” Stoddard said.[/cointent_lockedcontent]